(Updated with EPA chief comments)
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aiming to release this August its “model rule” for states that are unable to or refuse to submit a strategy to comply with the agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), it said this week.
The federal plan will provide a model that either states can utilise to create their own approach, or that the EPA can impose for those that do not develop strategies.
“The EPA sees this federal plan as an interim measure to ensure that congressionally mandated emission standards under authority of section 111 of the CAA are implemented until states assume their role as the preferred implementers of the emissions guidelines,” the agency said.
Under the CPP regulations, being pushed through by President Obama through a presidential executive order and expected to be finalised in July, states must submit customised plans outlining how they will cut carbon emissions from existing and future power plants, abiding by CO2/MWh limits set for each state.
The rules are being used to help the country cuts emissions from the power sector by 30% below 2005 levels, and national greenhouse gas emissions by between 26% and 28% below the same benchmark by 2025 – a target announced by Obama last year.
One potential problem is that after it’s published, the model rule will be subject to a scrutiny period of one year, meaning that it could be finalised after the deadline for states to submit their CPP compliance plans. They are meant to have a year from the finalisation of the CPP rules, which were announced last summer.
In addition, the CPP regulations will be revised before they are finalised this summer, taking into account the comments and suggestions made by states, industries, interest groups and the general public during their own one-year scrutiny period, EPA head Gina McCarthy said on Friday.
However, she confirmed that a requirement for states to meet interim targets en route to 2030 would not be dropped, according to usnews.com.
While many states have asked the EPA for additional guidance on the matter, no state that is not fighting the regulation is expected to adopt the agency’s model rule, according to experts.
But opposition to the CPP is growing, with Wisconsin this week becoming the 14th state to join a lawsuit against the EPA.
The state argues that the limits, which seek to cut Wisconsin’s emissions by 34% below 2005 levels by 2030, would cost $13 billion, raise electricity prices by 29% and ravage its manufacturing industry.
Separately, Kansas has joined 18 other states in requesting that the EPA withdraw its proposed regulations because the agency missed a Jan. 8, 2015 deadline to promulgate final new source performance standards under the CPP.
In a letter to EPA boss Gina McCarthy – which is also signed by attorney generals from Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota – the states argue that missing the deadline has rendered the proposed standards unlawful while affecting utility plans to build new power plants.
The U.S. Supreme Court in November agreed to hear a challenge of the EPA’s ability to implement new CO2 standards, which was filed by a group of utilities and 21 states. The suit claims the EPA did not properly consider how its rules would raise costs for utilities and customers alike by forcing new plants to feature carbon-cutting technology.
US Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell last month called for state governors to “hold back” on the “costly process” of complying with the CPP, saying the measures – which are “probably illegal” – would have a negligible effect on the world’s climate while having a “profoundly” negative impact on American families through the closure of coal-fired power stations.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org