EPA to publish Clean Power Plan on Oct. 23; early copy of final rule released

Let the lawsuits begin! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will in the Oct. 23 Federal Register publish both its final Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and a CO2-reducing plan for new power plants.

Several federal courts have ruled that opponents of the rules can’t appeal them in court until they are published in final form in the Federal Register. EPA had issued versions of the final rules on Aug. 3, but the courts said that didn’t trigger the lawsuit start point.

The Federal Register on Oct. 22 issued a pre-publication version of the rules. The Clean Power Plan alone is well over 1,000 pages. The Clean Power Plan calls for 32% greenhouse gas reductions from existing power plants by 2030, with an interim compliance deadline in 2022.

EPA said that under the Clean Power Plan it is establishing final emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). Specifically, the EPA is establishing: carbon dioxide (CO2) emission performance rates representing the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for two subcategories of existing fossil fuel-fired EGUs – fossil fuel-fired electric utility steam generating units and stationary combustion turbines; state-specific CO2 goals reflecting the CO2 emission performance rates; and guidelines for the development, submittal and implementation of state plans that establish emission standards or other measures to implement the CO2 emission performance rates, which may be accomplished by meeting the state goals. This final rule will continue progress already underway in the U.S. to reduce CO2 emissions from the utility power sector.

This final rule is effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

“This final rule is a significant step forward in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. In this action, the EPA is establishing for the first time GHG emission guidelines for existing power plants,” said the final rule. “These final emission guidelines, which rely in large part on already clearly emerging growth in clean energy innovation, development and deployment, will lead to significant carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions from the utility power sector that will help protect human health and the environment from the impacts of climate change. This rule establishes, at the same time, the foundation for longer term GHG emission reduction strategies necessary to address climate change and, in so doing, confirms the international leadership of the U.S. in the global effort to address climate change.

“In this final rule, we have taken care to ensure that achievement of the required emission reductions will not compromise the reliability of our electric system, or the affordability of electricity for consumers. This final rule is the result of unprecedented outreach and engagement with states, tribes, utilities, and other stakeholders, with stakeholders providing more than 4.3 million comments on the proposed rule. In this final rule, we have addressed the comments and concerns of states and other stakeholders while staying consistent with the law. As a result, we have followed through on our commitment to issue a plan that is fair, flexible and relies on the accelerating transition to cleaner power generation that is already well underway in the utility power sector.

“Under the authority of Clean Air Act (CAA) section 111(d), the EPA is establishing CO2 emission guidelines for existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs) – the Clean Power Plan. These final guidelines, when fully implemented, will achieve significant reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030, while offering states and utilities substantial flexibility and latitude in achieving these reductions.

“The EPA is also establishing state-specific rate-based and mass-based goals that reflect the subcategory-specific CO2 emission performance rates and each state’s mix of affected EGUs. The guidelines also provide for the development, submittal and implementation of state plans that implement the BSER – again, expressed as CO2 emission performance rates – either directly by means of source-specific emission standards or other requirements, or through measures that achieve equivalent CO2 reductions from the same group of EGUs. States with one or more affected EGUs will be required to develop and implement plans that set emission standards for affected EGUs.

“Concurrent with this action, the EPA is also issuing a final rule that establishes CO2 emission standards of performance for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants. Together, these rules will reduce CO2 emissions by a substantial amount while ensuring that the utility power sector in the U.S. can continue to supply reliable and affordable electricity to all Americans using a diverse fuel supply.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.