Power Rule Repeal, Replacement Headed for Finish Line Early 2019

By Abby Smith

The EPA’s efforts to repeal and replace the Obama administration’s signature climate policy could be complete next spring.

The Environmental Protection Agency is aiming for March 2019 to finish its repeal of the Clean Power Plan (RIN: 2060-AT55), the Obama administration’s regulation setting carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants. The agency also plans to complete its replacement rule (RIN:2060-AT67), known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, that month, according to the regulatory agenda released Oct. 17.

The Trump EPA on Aug. 31 proposed narrower greenhouse gas limits for the existing power sector. The agency’s approach focuses on what individual power plants can achieve through efficiency improvements. The Obama administration’s rule had also included methods to reduce emissions beyond a single facility, including switching to natural gas and renewable energy.

The EPA’s new approach gives broad discretion to state regulators to determine requirements for power plants in their state.

Utilities and other industry groups had urged the EPA to replace the Clean Power Plan rather than wholly eliminate it. They largely back the EPA’s proposal, though some utilities are encouraging the agency to provide clearer guidance on what an acceptable state plan to meet the rule’s goals looks like.

But the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule—and the proposed Clean Power Plan repeal—have drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists and Democratic state officials. They argue the EPA’s narrower approach isn’t sufficient to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants, the second largest emitting sector after transportation, and could allow coal plants to run longer.

The EPA’s August proposal also includes changes to the agency’s air permitting program known as New Source Review to allow facilities to make efficiency upgrades without triggering requirements to install additional pollution controls.