Right now, power plants operate under federal limits on arsenic, mercury and soot they can release. But there are no federal rules restricting dangerous carbon pollution. That’s not safe. It’s not right.
And now, with the Clean Power Plan likely to be finalized very soon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to cancel this free pass to pollute. EPA began the process to develop these first ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plants almost two years ago, engaging in unprecedented public outreach before the rule was even proposed, and has remained engaged with the public on how best to shape the final rule ever since.
When the final rule comes out, we can be sure that there will be changes, and NextGen Climate America will continue to provide the latest information about what the rule means, doesn’t mean, and how states can best implement the rule, just as we have been from the very beginning.
This is the most meaningful action on climate at the national level we have ever seen in the United States, but we realize that many people may be hearing about this historic effort for the first time.. So whether you want to learn what the rule means for you or simply refresh your memory, we hope some of these resources can help.
The Stakes: Climate Info and the Need to Regulate Power Plants
Power plants that burn fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are America’s single biggest source of global warming pollutants like carbon dioxide. Unless we tackle pollution from these sources, we will face even more severe consequences of global climate change than we are already suffering. To understand more about how climate change works, check out the resources below:
- Climate 101 with Bill Nye: Get schooled in the scientific fundamentals of climate change in less than 5 minutes with this entertaining and educational video.
- Climate Change 101 Series from C2ES: Go somewhat more in depth with this 11-part series of reports and podcasts.
- The Risky Business Project: A bipartisan and business-focused series of reports that assess the economic threats created by climate change in America.
- National Climate Assessment: This comprehensive, peer-reviewed report brings together the best research from NASA, NOAA, the National Academy of Sciences and more than 300 scientific experts to present the latest on what climate change means for agriculture, health, infrastructure and other important aspects of day-to-day life in each region and state throughout the country.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment Report: The global community’s most authoritative assessment of the recent state of climate science, including recommendations to policy makers for how to avoid the most dire consequences. Step 1: cut carbon pollution from power plants.
- SkepticalScience.com: Get the facts behind climate myths, lies, and misinformation. This website debunks the deniers point by point, with citations to authoritative and credible climate science every step of the way.
The Proposed Rule: Limiting Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants
The Clean Power Plan is based on a careful assessment of how power plants in each state can reduce their carbon pollution while maintaining a strong and economically sound electricity system throughout the country. When you add up all of the ways to cut pollution that EPA assessed, the total reduction in pollution comes to about 30% below 2005 levels. The details of how EPA set each state’s pollution reduction target can get complicated (and will almost certainly change in the final rule) but these resources can help bring you up to speed on major aspects of the rule.
- Clean Power Plan Basics: The Union of Concerned Scientists covers the basics of the rule in this straightforward, readable summary.
- EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Go right to the source. Read the rule, summaries, technical supporting documents and more.
- NRDC’s “Clean Power: the Case for Carbon Pollution Limits”: This 12-chapter, comprehensive resource describes the need and moral obligation to act on climate, the federal government’s authority to do so, and the benefits that can come from achieving the targets set in the Clean Power Plan and beyond. For a shorter read, start with this blog post by David Doniger, which provides an initial analysis and summary.
- Grist Articles: David Roberts, formerly of Grist.org, has provided two very helpful articles with background information on how the Clean Power Plan works. The first explains some important legal questions that have come up regarding the rule. The second goes into the role that states will play in implementing it.
In addition to the health benefits that come from having a healthier climate, such as reduced incidence of heat stroke, infectious disease, and weather-related harms, limiting carbon pollution will also provide relief from heart disease, asthma, and other illnesses caused by air pollution. In the proposed rule, these health benefits include saving thousands of lives and up to $93 billion in other health-related benefits.
- Fact Sheet: Clean Power Plan Benefits: This fact sheet from EPA summarizes the primary health benefits. If we move faster and cut pollution more, these benefits can be even greater.
- Peer-reviewed Article in Nature Climate Change: This scientific assessment confirms that carbon standards to curb global climate change can also provide immediate local and regional health co-benefits.
- American Lung Association: This short video from the American Lung Association explains how climate change and pollution from power plants damage kids’ lungs.
We do not have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. In fact, just the opposite: every aspect of our economy ultimately depends on our ability to work within a safe, stable climate, and when we invest in clean energy technology, we create jobs and lower electric bills for American families. Here are some resources that prove it.
- NextGen Climate America: This blog post rounds up a number of studies showing the kind of job creation and energy bill reductions that Americans can see if states implement the Clean Power Plan in a smart way that invests in people. This post includes studies from:
- Georgia Tech has re-confirmed these findings, and many other studies continue to show the economic benefits of acting on climate.
- Advanced Energy Economy: A series of reports from AEE show that states that invest in cutting carbon create jobs and see other economic benefits. California, for instance, has created 430,000 advanced energy jobs, and counting. Ohio, by contrast, is driving away investment with its “freeze” on clean energy.
- The Economic Case for Clean Energy: NextGen Climate (our sister organization that acts politically to prevent climate disaster and promote American prosperity for all Americans) has also recently released a report describing how clean energy provides common sense, economical solutions to reduce carbon pollution by building a clean energy economy.
The Role of States
Even though the federal EPA is issuing the rule, states have a big say in how the Clean Power Plan translates into clean power reality. EPA has provided states with tremendous flexibility to meet the standards in whatever way fits best with their particular local priorities and conditions. Here are some resources that describe some of the options available to states as they consider how to write their state plans.
- It’s Not That Complicated: This post I wrote provides a quick primer on the basic implementation options for states. It’s a good place to start as you consider what it takes to translate a standard into a real regulatory regime.
- Western Resource Advocates: This model regulation provides a bit more detail on what one version of state implementation might look like.
- Multi-state Plans: This post examines how states can work together to find ways to achieve even greater benefits and lower compliance costs by trading emissions permit credits among themselves.
- Menu of Options: The National Association of Clean Air Agencies has put together this detailed deep-dive on how states can evaluate a wide variety of tools that can be factored into their implementation plans.
- Common Elements: This report from Duke University’s Nicholas Institute explains how states don’t necessarily need to develop a full scale regional agreement in order to get the benefits of working with other states to find least-cost pollution reductions.
Building a Cleaner, More Reliable Electric System
- 3-Part Reliability Series from NextGen Climate America: These three blog posts explain how moving to a cleaner electricity system goes hand in hand with maintaining and improving that system’s reliability.
- Part 1 describes how climate change threatens our electrical grid and how the same steps we must take to lessen these climate change impacts will also provide us with a stronger, smarter, and cleaner electrical system.
- Part 2 debunks big polluters’ myths and shows how their perennial cry that every new pollution regulation will somehow cripple our electric system amounts to little more than a cynical scare tactic.
- Part 3 explains how existing components of the proposed Clean Power Plan provide states and grid planners with ample flexibility to ensure that reliability is maintained throughout the process of cleaning up our electrical system.
- The Brattle Group: This study by one of the world’s most respected energy analysis firms shows that the Clean Power Plan need not pose any threat to grid reliability, and it expertly shows how claims to the contrary in other studies rely on flawed assumptions and other analytical errors.
- Department of Energy: DOE shows that, contrary to assertions from some opponents of the Clean Power Plan, our energy infrastructure can readily meet the needs of a cleaner electricity system.
- The Analysis Group: A deep dive into the details of the Midwestern and Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic energy grids shows that these systems are already undergoing changes that will clean up their systems and leave these grids very well prepared for the Clean Power Plan.
This is just a small sampling of the many resources available to help address questions that may arise as you learn more about the Clean Power Plan. In coming weeks and months, NextGen Climate America will continue to provide new analysis and information on the final rule, changes it contains, and what it means for you.