On August 3, 2015, President Barack Obama formally announced what probably amounts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most ambitious plan to date: The Clean Power Plan, or CPP. He called it “the single most important step that America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change."
Since then, CPP has been the subject of much political controversy. After facing challenges in lower courts filed by a number of state attorneys general, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted a stay on February 9, 2016. The stay halts implementation of CPP regulations while its legality is determined in cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (also known simply as the D.C. Circuit). On September 27 of this year, the D.C. Circuit will begin to hear oral arguments for and against the Clean Power Plan. In a rare move, the D.C. Circuit has elected to hear these arguments en banc, whereby all the judges of the court will be present, instead of a typical panel of three, helping to speed up an eventual hearing before SCOTUS.
_What Is the Clean Power Plan? _ The Clean Power Plan is a set of national standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA website, CPP is aimed at reducing “carbon pollution from power plants … while maintaining energy reliability and affordability.” Specifically, the EPA wants to reduce emissions from existing power plants on a national level by 32 percent relative to 2005 levels, by 2030.
To accomplish this, EPA used three basic building blocks in order to calculate the carbon emission reductions required from each state:
Increased efficiency at fossil fuel plants; Substituting natural gas for coal; and Substituting renewable generation for fossil fuels. Individual states are given their own targets based on an individual profile, and extraordinary flexibility in meeting these targets.
EPA’s building blocks were used to determine their goals, but the states are free to meet CPP requirements in whatever way they see fit. End-user energy efficiency (EE), for example, is among the most cost-effective solutions states can employ to achieve CPP targets. Should, however, a state fail to submit its plan within the timeframe laid out by CPP, EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to implement a plan on behalf of that state.