Regional Environmentalists Pan Plan To Rescind Clean Power Plan

Oct 10, 2017

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he would rescind the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.  Environmental advocates in our region are critical of the move, noting that the cap-and-trade-style plan to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants is already working in the Northeast.

The Clean Power Plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude on how to achieve those reductions. In Hazard, Kentucky on Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would rescind the rule, as heard here on Fox News.   “The past administration was unapologetic. They were using every bit of power, every bit of authority, to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country. And that’s wrong.”

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says the announcement is not a surprise, but it is disappointing.   "This is a landmark regulation that we believed would not only help curb climate change but would also assist in reducing the amount of acid rain that’s falling on the Adirondacks. The Clean Power Plan is basically modeled on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast which is a power sector clean-up program.”

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve partner David Gibson calls the move counterproductive.  He notes the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that the plan is modeled on proves its viability.    “It’s been shown here in the Northeast that the power sources in the Northeast are still producing power and yet have dramatically decreased their carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade program that’s been successful. Trump is simply trying to end whatever President Obama did regardless of the merits of whatever program it may be.”

Author, activist and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben says repealing the Clean Power Plan takes away a framework to put the nation toward modest carbon emission reductions.   “Our problem around climate change is not that we’re not going to do the right thing eventually. Fifty years from now we’re going to have shut down all the coal fired power plants and we’re going to be running the country on solar panels.  The problem is if we wait any longer it’ll be a broken planet that we’re running on renewable energy. We’re right up to the edge and so every day and week of delay, every time that we extend the life of these power plants, we’re breaking the back of climate systems before our eyes.  And that’s what makes it all terrifying and maddening.”   

Bracewell LLP is a Washington, D.C.-based legal firm representing energy and technology firms. Environmental Strategies Group director Jeff Holmstead headed the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation from 2001 to 2005.  He says the biggest concern that industry has is the new regulatory authority EPA would have under the Clean Power Plan.  “It wasn’t the fact that they were regulating CO2, but in the Clean Power Plan EPA said that it had authority to restructure the entire U.S. power sector.  And in fact they said well we think the best way to get these emission reductions is to close down a number of coal fired power plants and to replace them with natural gas, but primarily with wind and solar. And that was I think troubling to virtually everybody in the power sector.”

The Clean Power Plan was never implemented because the Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman led the legal effort to defend the plan. Calls to his office were not returned in time for broadcast.  In a statement Monday, he said: “The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change – and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation – is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda.”

Other statements released by regional interests:

STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO:
 
"The Trump Administration's move to dismantle the Clean Power Plan is a reckless decision that gives power plant operators free reign to do what they will without any concern for our climate. It rolls back the progress we have made to reduce carbon emissions and puts industry interests ahead of our ability to reduce damaging emissions. Climate change is a profound threat to our planet, and it cannot be wished away by denial.
 
"There is no denial here in New York. While the Trump Administration takes a back a seat to the rest of the world, New York is on track to meet our ambitious target of achieving 50 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030, and we will continue to lead the fight to meet the standards set forth in both the Paris Accord and the Clean Power Plan."
 
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BLUMENTHAL STATEMENT ON TRUMP ADMINISTRATION REPEAL OF THE CLEAN POWER PLAN:

[WASHINGTON, DC]
“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will discourage job-boosting investment, slow our transition to renewable energy, and increase public health risks. This is a shortsighted and dangerous move by an Administration that has attempted to sabotage American progress toward a clean energy future at every turn. With the Administration’s abdication of responsibility, other states must follow in Connecticut’s footsteps and harness the proven environmental and economic benefits of clean power.”

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Statement of Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine

“In Scott Pruitt’s ideal world, polluters have total control of America’s energy and environmental policy. That is a disaster for Maine, which is not only downwind from many of those polluters, but is also blessed with abundant clean, local, renewable energy supplies, rather than dirty coal and oil.

“Today the EPA Administrator is doing exactly what his boss, President Trump, told him to do back in March: rollback protections under the Clean Air Act and do whatever you can to make it easier for coal, oil and gas industries to pollute. Today Pruitt is also pursuing the same agenda he pursued as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, ferociously attacking EPA protections in alliance with his fossil fuel allies with whom he retains the closest ties. President continues to nominate climate-denying lobbyists for coal and chemicals to hold the highest offices at the EPA, making a mockery of the agency’s core mission to protect.

“Rolling back the Clean Power Plan will allow unlimited levels of carbon pollution — the major contributor to climate change — to be dumped into our air from power plants across the country. This is particularly bad for Maine, since we at the end of the prevailing winds breathe their pollution here. Letting these polluters off the hook exposes Mainers to more “bad air” days, asthma attacks, and damage to our economy from a warming climate.

“Reducing dangerous carbon pollution from power plants is not only essential for our climate and clean air; it is good news for our economy. We know because we’re already doing it. Maine and eight other northeastern states are already part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which limits power plant carbon pollutions well ahead of the schedule in the Clean Power Plan. Recently the nine RGGI Governors—five of whom are Republicans, with four Democrats—decided to extend the program for another 10 years because it is benefiting our economy and energy consumers while cutting pollution.

“That is the reality that Pruitt and his fossil fuel industry allies don’t want you to see: we can have a cleaner energy future and a stronger economy. But it is one based on renewable power and energy efficiency technology, not their dirty fuels from the last century.

“Pruitt is a climate denier whose term in office has been an offense to science, and now he is trying to deny the basic math behind the Clean Power Plan, too. They are cooking the books to hide the public health benefits of reducing dangerous power plant pollution.

“All of this stands in stark contrast to the leadership on climate change and clean energy shown by Maine’s U.S. Senators. We applaud Maine’s Senators Susan Collins and Angus King for their repeated acknowledgement of climate change science, and their statements in support of the EPA’s power to limit climate-changing pollution. They understand that an attack on the Clean Power Plan is an attack on the Clean Air Act.

“Moving forward with common-sense climate protection is essential for Maine’s health and prosperity—to say nothing of the need to address the devastating, global warming-fueled hurricanes and forest fires affecting other states this fall.

“We will support any effort to defend today’s unlawful rollback of the Clean Air Act and we are counting on Maine’s senators to continue defending the health of Maine people, our economy, and safeguards for the clean air and clean water that define our state.”

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Connecticut AG  George Jepsen issued the following statement on the action taken by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to repeal the Clean Power Plan:

"While not unexpected, the EPA administrator's action today is disappointing nonetheless. EPA has a responsibility under the law – a responsibility affirmed by our country's highest court – to regulate carbon emissions. In few places is this more important than in Connecticut, which has many miles of coastline and an economy that is linked to unique and sensitive resources that will be impacted by climate change. Because the Trump Administration's EPA has clearly demonstrated that it has no interest in doing its job when it comes to carbon emissions, Connecticut will join with colleagues in other states in action to defend the Clean Power Plan and protect the health, safety and well-being of our residents."

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PROTECT THE ADIRONDACKS:

Repeal of Clean Power Plan by EPA is a Monumental Step Backwards

EPA’s repeal plan makes ignoring the impacts of climate change the official plan of the Trump Administration and federal government

The Clean Power Plan not only would have put U.S. on path towards lower carbon emissions, but would have all but ended acid rain
 
Lake George, NY – Protect the Adirondacks opposes the new plan by the Trump Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon the Clean Power Plan set up by the Obama Administration. This is an enormous set back for US policy on climate change and will have negative impacts in the Adirondacks as progress on significant reductions in acid rain over the past 20 years may be lost. The US EPA announced on October 9, 2017 that is was starting the process to take formal steps to officially repeal the Clean Power Plan.
 
The Obama Administration Clean Power Plan called for greenhouse gas emission reductions for over 1,000 existing power plants in the US. It was seen as a major landmark in environmental history because it was the first national C02 reduction program. The Clean Power Plan was similar in scope to the creation of the national Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act. EPA estimated that 83% of greenhouse gas emissions are from carbon dioxide (C02) released into the atmosphere. As a group these 1,000 coal-fired power plants are the single largest sources of C02 pollution in the U.S., producing nearly 25%. The Clean Power Plan was expected to produce a 20% reduction in C02 emissions from these power plants by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels). Other major C02 reductions were achieved by Obama actions to increase fuel efficiency and tailpipe emission standards on automobiles by raising mileage rates from an average of 36 miles per gallon to over 54 by 2025. The Trump Administration announced plans in March to rollback the automobile standards.
 
“The spate of massive hurricanes, floods, and wild fires we’ve seen in the past month is the new normal. These catastrophes are a pretty clear message from planet Earth that we need to make changes, and make them fast, to reduce carbon pollution and stop warming trends. The Trump Administration and EPA are ignoring reality and pretending that we can continue with the status quo, which is clearly unsustainable. This is an exceedingly poor decision,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.
 
According to the EPA these are the basic facts. The making of electricity produces 32% of C02 emissions in the U.S. followed by the transportation sector at 28%, industry at 20%, commercial/residential at 10% and agriculture at 10%. The biggest fuel source used for the production of electricity is coal, which while it supplies 39% of electricity made, it produces 75% of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector. About 29% of electricity in 2012 was generated using natural gas, which has grown by the hydro-fracking boom, followed by 20% from nuclear and 12% from renewables. Coal-fired power plants are the single biggest “stationary source” of C02 pollution emissions as they produce fully 25% of U.S. C02 pollution.
 
A key component of the Clean Power Plan is that each state was required to develop a C02 reduction plan. If a state refused to develop such a plan, then the EPA would draft a plan for them. A key part of the Clean Power Plan was new reduction levels set by the EPA, which power plants could meet using a new cap-and-trade program for carbon pollution credits, similar to the longstanding and successful program for acid rain pollutants sulfur dioxide (S02) and Nitrogen Oxide (S0x).
 
“The cap-and-trade program has been a national success story since it was started in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments signed by President George H.W. Bush. The Clean Power Plan incorporated the same cap-and-trade approach to achieving reductions in pollution using free market principles of supply and demand. Now, with the absence of federal leadership on carbon reduction, the best hope is to look towards state action from places like California and New York,” said Peter Bauer.
 
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FULL TEXT OF RELEASE FROM NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN:

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON CLEAN POWER PLAN: I WILL SUE TO STOP REPEAL
A.G. Schneiderman Leads Coalition Of States And Localities That Intervened To Defend The CPP
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released the following statement today following EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement that the Trump Administration will repeal the Clean Power Plan:
“By seeking to repeal the Clean Power Plan – especially without any credible commitment to replacing it – the Trump Administration’s campaign of climate change denial continues, once again putting industry special interests ahead of New Yorkers’ and all Americans’ safety, health, and the environment.

“I am proud to lead the coalition of states and localities defending the Clean Power Plan in federal court. If and when the Trump Administration finalizes this repeal, I will sue to protect New  Yorkers’ and put a stop to the  Trump Administration’s irresponsible and illegal efforts to turn back the clock on public health.

“Fuel-burning power plants are one of our nation’s largest sources of climate change pollution, and common-sense science –  and the law – dictate that EPA take action to cut these emissions. In fact, states like New York have demonstrated that greenhouse gases from power plants can be reduced dramatically, while holding the line on utility bills, maintaining grid reliability, and adding billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to our economies.

“The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change – and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation – is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda.”

Background

The Clean Power Plan is the culmination of a decade-long effort by New York and partnering states and cities to require mandatory cuts in the emissions of climate change pollution from fossil fuel burning power plants under the Clean Air Act.  Eleven years ago, New York and other states sued EPA in the D.C. Circuit after the agency failed to establish emission standards for carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plants.  That lawsuit resulted in a settlement, finalized in 2011, in which EPA committed to undertake rulemaking to address carbon dioxide from power plants.

In November 2015, a coalition of 25 states, cities and counties, led by New York Attorney General Schneiderman, intervened in defense of the Clean Power Plan against legal challenge in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Clean Power Plan, along with the companion rule applicable to new, modified, and reconstructed power plants, will control emissions by setting limits on the amount of climate change pollution that power plants can emit. The rule for existing plants is expected to eliminate as much climate change pollution as is emitted by more than 160 million cars a year – or 70% of the nation’s passenger cars.

The Clean Power Plan, which was adopted through a multi-year stakeholder process, is founded on three solid pillars:
•    a mandatory duty under law to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants;
•    overwhelming scientific proof of the need to take prompt action to reduce power plant emissions of climate change pollution; and
•    compelling evidence that power plants can cost-effectively cut these emissions while maintaining electricity reliability.

Mandatory duty to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed EPA’s authority to address carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act, beginning with its decision ten years ago in Massachusetts v. EPA. Subsequently, EPA found based on an extensive scientific record that greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, endanger public health and welfare. EPA’s decision was upheld in by the D.C. Circuit in 2012, and EPA Administrator Pruitt acknowledged in his confirmation hearing that the endangerment finding “needs to be enforced and respected.”

The Clean Power Plan, which establishes guidelines for states to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants, and the companion rule setting standards for new power plants, address one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the U.S. Those two rules are firmly grounded in another Supreme Court case, American Electric Power v. Connecticut. There, the Court held that New York and other states could not use federal common law public nuisance to address power plant carbon pollution because section 111 of the Clean Air Act—the section of the law EPA relied in the Clean Power Plan and new plant rule—“speaks  directly” to those emissions.

Compelling scientific evidence on the need to act now. The scientific evidence is compelling that climate change is harming our communities now and that prompt and substantial emission reductions are necessary to avert catastrophic impacts. In its 2009 finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, EPA cited more intense, frequent, and long-lasting heat waves; worse smog in cities; longer and more severe droughts; more intense storms such as hurricanes and floods; the spread of disease; and a dramatic rise in sea levels.

When it finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, EPA emphasized that additional scientific studies bolstered the endangerment finding, citing increased risk of premature death (especially in children and the elderly) during extreme heat events and from infectious and waterborne diseases, as well as threats to coastal communities and infrastructure from storms and rising sea levels. We have witnessed this firsthand in our communities. For example, New York has experienced dramatic increases in the frequency and intensity of storms, including a record deluge in Long Island in August 2014. Recent destruction fromHurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is likewise consistent with scientists’ projections of an increased frequency and damage from extreme storm events. And in South Florida, even before Hurricane Irma struck, flooding exacerbated by rising seas had become commonplace, harming homes, roads, bridges, drinking water, and sewage systems. Like 2014 and 2015, 2016 was the warmest year on record. In a report issued last year, the National Academies of Science stated that “if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred thus far.”

Well-established track record of emission reductions. The rulemaking record for the Clean Power Plan conclusively shows that power plants can substantially cut carbon pollution and do so cost effectively. As power companies supporting the Plan in the litigation explained, the best system of emission reduction chosen by EPA—increasing efficiency and shifting from dirtier to cleaner power generation—is already routinely used in the industry.

EPA also drew heavily on the experience of states that have enacted laws similar to the Clean Power Plan—experience that has demonstrated cutting carbon emissions does not hinder economic growth. For example, through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), New York and eight other states successfully reduced regional carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by 45 percent from 2005 levels.  The RGGI program has provided substantial public health benefits in participating as well as neighboring states, including avoiding hundreds of premature deaths, heart attacks, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits, averting 39,000 lost work days, and hundreds of thousands of cases of restricted activity days due to air pollution – and generating up to $8.3 billion in health savings and other health benefits – between 2009 and 2014.  Moreover, over the program’s first three years alone, total energy bills across the nine states were reduced by $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion was added to the local economy.