9 things you should know about Pres. Obama’s Clean Power Plan

by Jason Schwartz

June 3, 2014

Crossposted from Grist

President Obama and the EPA made history yesterday with their Clean Power Plan, a set of new regulations that will phase out many of America’s coal-fired power plants. Ben Adler over at Grist has a great 9-point rundown of the major things you should know about it.

The rules are finally out. In what some pundits are calling the most important act of President Obamas second term, on Monday morning the EPA released itsClean Power Plan.These are the proposed rules that will require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions fromexisting electricpowerplants. Electric generation accounts for about 40 percent of current U.S. CO2 emissions.

The text of the regulations runs to 645 pages, and it isnt exactly a page-turner. We suspect youve got more fun things to do with your time on this lovely spring day than to read it. So here we answer the nine most important questions about the proposal for you:

1. What will the rules do?The EPA intends to create a rate-based limiton greenhouse gas emissions from power plants for each state depending on its current emissions. Rate-based means it sets a standard for how much CO2 is emitted per megawatt hour of electricity produced, not a limit on total carbon tonnage. The plan is designed,as was expected, to give states maximum flexibility to meet these goals in whichever way works best for them and to avoid constricting economic growth. States can, however, choose to convert their rate-based goal into a total tonnage goal if they prefer.

2. How much will the plan cut emissions?Nationwide, the plan is projected to reduce power plants CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 26 or 27 percent by 2020 and about 30 percent by 2030. Whats strange about these numbers is that EPA is setting an ambitious target for 2020, and then barely improving it over the next decade. Thats pretty weak. As clean energy technology becomes cheaper, states should be able to do a lot more to reduce their emissions. The targets can be strengthened in the future, but dont expect a President Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush to do so. When asked why the rate reductions are so front-loaded, an EPA senior official told reporters, Some of the measures [to reduce emissions] can be implemented pretty rapidly.

The targets make more sense politically than policy-wise.

Check out the rest of Ben’s piece here!

Jason Schwartz

By Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based in New York City.

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