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National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

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 Obama Administration proposes broadest climate protection plan to date

By Julie Ufner
ASSOCIATE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR


On June 2, President Obama announced the centerpiece for his Climate Action Plan, a proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

The Clean Power Plan, as proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would require that carbon emissions be reduced by approximately 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The proposed regulation is open for public comment for 120 days, once it is published in the Federal Register.

The 645-page proposal gives primary responsibility to the states to cut carbon emissions. They are required to develop plans that address greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants.

Bullet Read the proposed legislation​

While the proposal lays out state-specific goals for carbon emission reductions, it allows states the broadest flexibility to both meet the new standards and develop state-specific emission goals. For example, proposed guidelines include efficiency improvements at coal power plants, efforts to promote renewable energy sources, or energy efficiency programs as methods the state can use to meet its goals. The Administration estimates that by 2030, the rule would lead to a significant decrease in carbon emissions and result in climate and health benefits of $48 billion to $82 billion.

For each state, EPA has suggested a unique base emissions goal. This is based on current CO2 emissions, existing low- and zero-emitting power sources and other state and regional information. States then can set their own emission reduction goals using EPA’s “building block” system.

There are four tenets to the “building block system:”

  1. make fossil fuel power plants more efficient
  2. use more low-emitting power sources — i.e. natural gas, nuclear facilities
  3. use more zero power sources — i.e. renewable energy sources such as wind or solar, and
  4. use electricity more efficiency.

EPA acknowledges that the proposed rule is an unfunded mandate and could impose substantial direct compliance costs on state or local governments.

Within hours of release, Capitol Hill opponents had drafted bills to either limit or stop the regulations from moving forward. A number of industry groups have already raised issues about the proposal, stating that moving away from a traditional energy supply will raise energy costs for consumers. It is likely the issue may be passionately debated during the yearly appropriations cycle as an amendment, and numerous House and Senate Committees are expected to hold hearings on the proposal.

As part of the proposed rule package, a regulatory impact analysis (RIA) was also released that details the potential benefits, costs and economic impacts for regulating emissions from fossil-fuel power plants. 

NACo Policy

NACo opposes any federal attempts to preempt state and local planning policies, processes, and decisions.

EPA has scheduled four public hearings:

  • week of July 28 — Washington, D.C.     
  • July 29 — Atlanta, Ga.
  • July 29 — Denver, Colo.
  • July 31 — Pittsburgh, Pa.

The public hearings will begin at 9 a.m. local time and run until 8 p.m. If a local official would like to speak at one of these meetings, please contact Pamela Garrett with the EPA to register. She can be reached at 919.541.7966 or at garrett.pamela@epa.gov. The last day to preregister to speak at one of these hearings is Friday, July 25.