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U.S. EPA takes first step to repeal Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan

On October 10, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to repeal the “Clean Power Plan (CPP)” issued under the Obama Administration in 2015. An agency may issue an NPRM before issuing a proposed rule in order to obtain any additional information needed before submitting a proposed rule. Public comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 60 days once published in the Federal Register.

Finalized in 2015, the CPP is designed to reduce carbon pollution from the electric power sector by 32 percent relative to 2005 levels by 2030. Almost immediately after the CPP was finalized, states and other entities challenged it in the courts. Specifically, the states were concerned with new CPP rules requiring them to develop state plans, creating an unfunded mandate. As a result, in February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily froze the CPP’s implementation until after the lower courts could rule on the legal viability of the CPP.

EPA’s decision to repeal the CPP is a result of President Trump’s March 28, 2017 Executive Order on “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which directed the EPA to review the CPP and rescind or revise it. It is also in keeping with Republicans’ broader effort to repeal Obama-era regulations that they and other critics say go beyond the scope of what Congress intended when drawing up legislation such as the Clean Air Act (CAA).

In issuing the NPRM, Administrator Pruitt stated that “The CPP ignored states’ concerns and eroded longstanding and important partnerships that are a necessary part of achieving positive environmental outcomes.” By repealing the CPP, the EPA estimates a total savings of $33 billion by 2030, largely in avoided compliance costs. However, EPA’s actions were not universally accepted. Numerous groups raised concerns that repealing the CPP would roll back the progress the United States has made in reducing air pollution, ultimately threatening public health.

After the 60 day NPRM ends, the EPA will work to assess whether further regulatory action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary, and how it could be accomplished in a manner consistent with the Clean Air Act. Though it is uncertain if or when a new replacement rule will be issued, it is widely expected that environmental groups and other CPP supporters will sue the EPA to stop the repeal or force the agency to develop new regulations to replace the CPP. NACo will continue to monitor developments surround this and other regulatory actions from the Trump Administration to ensure that the needs and interests of America’s counties are reflected.