Legal & Regulatory

Obama Vetoes Resolution to Stop Clean Power Plan

As expected, President Obama vetoed two resolutions on Dec. 18 that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules on CO2 emissions and halted the administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Senate Joint Res. 23 was Congress’ attempt to nullify the EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants, while Senate Joint Res. 24 provided disapproval for carbon pollution emission guidelines for existing sources.

The resolutions utilized a provision known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn new regulations within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register. The Senate passed the resolutions on Nov. 17, while the House followed suit on Dec. 1.

In his Memorandum of Disapproval, the president said, “Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in our country. Although we have limits on other dangerous pollutants from power plants, the carbon pollution standards and the Clean Power Plan ensure that we will finally have national standards to reduce the amount of carbon pollution that our power plants can emit.”

President Obama noted that atmospheric levels of CO2, a primary GHG, are higher than they have been in at least 800,000 years. He suggested that the impacts of climate change are already being seen, and that scientists have confirmed that stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons, and other intensified impacts will be experienced as the planet warms.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) had urged the president to sign the resolutions because it argues that the EPA rules will have virtually no effect on global climate change.

The ACCCE believes the cost for generation companies to comply with the rules could total nearly $300 billion, making it the most expensive regulation ever imposed on the electric sector. It predicts that electricity prices in all 48 contiguous states will increase as a result of the Clean Power Plan, with prices in more than half of the states surging by 20% or more.

“The economic costs associated with this illegal plan cannot be justified,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the ACCCE.

On Dec. 12, during the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), the U.S. and 194 other nations agreed to a landmark deal designed to limit the increase in global temperatures. The Clean Power Plan is the primary vehicle for the U.S. to meet its COP21 pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 26% by 2025.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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