At the direction of President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan Proposal in June 2014. The main goal of the proposal is to regulate carbon emissions from existing and future fossil fuel powered plants. Pursuant to the order, the EPA will release the final standards in June 2015. This order requires the EPA to work flexibly with states, energy agencies, labor unions, etc. to develop unique plans for each state. The EPA has set a “target goal” for each state- meaning the state must meet the target number in terms of carbon emissions. However, the methods that the states choose to meet the goal, is up to them. To develop their targets, the EPA first determined each state’s carbon-emissions baseline divided by its total electricity generation. Then using this number, the EPA established the target based on the capacity of each state to achieve reductions based on four “building blocks.” These building blocks are the states capacity to: 1. Make coal-fired power plants more efficient, 2. Use low-emitting natural gas combined cycle plants more where excess capacity is available, 3. Use more zero and low-emitting power sources such as renewables and nuclear, and 4. Reduce electricity demand by using electricity more efficiently.
For instance, the EPA has decided that Kentucky must reduce their carbon emissions by 18% by the year 2030. Using the “building blocks” the EPA provides illustrative ways that Kentucky may choose to meet that goal such as a 6% increase in efficiency of coal plants, 2.3% usage of low-emitting natural gas combined cycle plants more where excess capacity is available, 1.4% usage of more zero-emitting power sources such as renewables and nuclear, and 8.5% reduction in electricity demand by using electricity more efficiently. As mentioned, the state may adopt these illustrative methods, but is allowed to develop their own plan. Because the EPA expected “push-back” from some states, it has developed a “Model Plan” for any state that refuses to submit a carbon-emission reduction plan. Here is a map of the “target” goals for each state. It’s interactive, so you can click on a state and view their target numbers.
The EPA proposes that carbon-emission reductions will significantly battle climate change, protect public health by eliminating 30% of all carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency, and reduce demand on the electricity system. So, why all the opposition? Two words: jobs + money. Opponents of this legislation have labeled it “Obama’s War on Coal,” and over a dozen states have filed suit against the EPA. Opponents claim that the cost of the changes to machinery combined with lessening the demand on coal will essentially cause the plants to close. The states with the highest coal production (and most opposition) are Wyoming, which produces 39.4% of the U.S. coal supply, West Virginia at 11.8%, Kentucky 8.2%, Illinois 5.3%, and Pennsylvania 5.2%. In Wyoming, there are 17 mines that employ 6,673 employees. In West Virginia, there are 326 mines that employ 20,751 employees. Kentucky has 370 mines with 12,905 employees. Illinois has 33 mines and 4,164 employees. Finally, Pennsylvania has 207 mines with 6,817 employees. Just from the top-five coal producing states, 953 mines and 51,310 jobs will be affected by this legislation assuming the opponents have a valid argument that the costs will force closure. Here are examples of signs that many residents of Somerset, PA have displayed in their yards in response to the Clean Power Plan.
Recently, Obama has proposed a $4 billion dollar fund to reward states who are beating their climate goals. However, his proposal will likely be skeptically addressed by a Republican majority in Congress.