Reactions to Clean Power Plan: From Excitement to Anger

Reaction from utilities, environmental groups, and governmental leaders following the August 3 release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final Clean Power Plan rule was mixed.

Some, such as Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, pointed to the progress that has already been made in recent years to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, noting that the company has retired 40 older coal-fired units across the Carolinas and the Midwest since 2011.

“This ambitious plan seeks to build on the substantial progress Duke Energy and other utilities have made to reduce our environmental footprint. Even without federal regulations, our company has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from our power plants by 22 percent since 2005,” Good said.

Others, such as Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, aired concern over potential economic hardships that could befall U.S. citizens as a result.

“With the release of the final carbon regulation, the President once again demonstrated his lack of empathy for hard working Americans across the country who first and foremost wish to secure a robust economic future. Instead of putting their priorities first, the President shamefully put his political legacy first,” said Duncan.

As might be expected, environmental groups were solidly behind the plan.

“The new regulations are an important step forward to a prosperous, low carbon economy,” said Amy Davidsen, U.S. executive director of The Climate Group, suggesting that the plan reflects the business case for renewable energy and a step forward for energy efficiency.

Echoing Davidsen’s view that efficiency is important, Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said, “EPA and the president have made it clear that investing in energy efficiency will be a major opportunity for states looking for ways to comply with the Clean Power Plan rule.”

“This is a very big deal,” Environmental and Energy Study Institute Executive Director Carol Werner said, pointing to the final plan’s reduction goal of 32% rather than 30%, which was in the proposed rule. “An extra 2 points may not sound like much, but they lead to a 6.7 percent more ambitious target. The Administration is clearly trying to push other countries to be similarly ambitious in their carbon reduction goals ahead of the climate change talks in Paris at the end of this year. That’s excellent news.”

While Werner touted the benefits of a higher reduction goal, H. Sterling Burnett, environment and energy policy research fellow for The Heartland Institute, saw it quite the opposite.

“Obama took a terrible plan and made it worse. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the agency charged with ensuring the reliability of the nation’s electric power system, warned EPA’s earlier Clean Power Plan would result in the retirement of more than 134 gigawatts of generation, which the organization says will threaten the nation’s electric power grid. That’s enough electricity shut down to power every home west of the Mississippi. So what does his EPA do? It increases the target, ensuring more power plants shut down earlier resulting in an even greater threat of brown outs and black outs,” he said.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, agreed with Burnett.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has managed to take a bad deal and make it worse. The Obama administration has no concern for costs, no concept of reality and no respect for the rule of law. President Obama, and his EPA know that Americans do not support his costly carbon mandates, as most prominently on display when the U.S. Senate expressly rejected such an economically disastrous idea by failing to pass cap-and-trade legislation in 2009,” Inhofe said.

Even if the critics are right, the Obama administration has made history by releasing the plan—the first ever to regulate CO2 emissions in the U.S.

“We’re proud to finalize our historic Clean Power Plan. It will give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve. The United States is leading by example today, showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

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