Clean Power Plan: An Opportunity to Accelerate Our Clean Energy Transition

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Trump Administration’s rash action guts climate protections More »

With a sweeping executive order aimed at dismantling climate protections, the Trump administration today directed the reversal of the Clean Power Plan and revoked a series of previous actions aimed at combating climate change, from limits on methane leaks to a moratorium on coal leasing on federal public lands.

“This is an unprecedented and irresponsible effort to reverse any climate protections and clean energy progress this country has achieved,” said Senior Attorney Frank Rambo, leader of SELC's Clean Energy and Air program. “The South, in particular, stands to lose at a time when our communities are feeling the impact of climate change, whether it’s sea-level rise that floods the coast, or extreme heat and storms that destroy property and crops. The South is poised to gain from the Clean Power Plan with thousands of new jobs in our region, yet today’s action jeopardizes that.

“Americans have long risen to the challenge of tackling pollution while growing the economy,” added Rambo. “We strongly disagree with the current administration’s stance that you can’t do both.”

A federal appeals court could issue a ruling any day on legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan—the landmark action that would reduce harmful carbon pollution and speed the country’s transition to cleaner, more affordable energy choices—yet the administration has stepped in to derail the court’s review.

In today’s order, President Trump instructs the U.S. Department of Justice attorneys defending the Clean Power Plan to consider asking the court to halt its work so that the current administration can draft a weaker rule.

“Today’s action fits a troubling pattern from this administration to short circuit the judicial process,” said Rambo. “No one can use a magic wand to wish away the Clean Power Plan. It’s built on undeniable science and years of extensive public input. It’s an innovative, market-driven approach to solving the most pressing environmental challenge of our time. Scrapping it is a mistake that will hurt the South.”

Several Trump appointees, including Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency, have worked closely with, or on behalf of, energy and gas companies that have pushed for fewer environmental regulations.

"Fossil fuel lobbyists should not be dictating our environmental policy,” said Rambo. “Instead of trying to turn back the clock on America’s recent clean energy advances, the administration could help communities across the South benefit from the jobs and manufacturing opportunities in the clean energy economy so we can compete internationally.”

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Background

In June 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants. Coal- and natural gas-burning plants account for about one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The Clean Power Plan, finalized in August 2015, puts forward carbon emission targets for each state based on reasonable adjustments that can be made to the electric system. Meeting these targets by 2030 would cut national carbon emissions from the power sector by over 30% compared to 2005 levels.

While the plan is currently on hold pending a review by the U.S. Supreme Court, SELC continues to advocate for the country's strongest action ever to reduce carbon pollution. Not only is the plan a necessity from a public health and climate perspective, but it provides a milestone opportunity for the Southeast to make smarter choices about how we generate energy in our region and to create new jobs through clean energy investments.

State-based, flexible plan

The projected national reductions are the result of meeting the specific goals for individual states that EPA developed based on their current energy mix.  Not only are the goals tailored to each state, states have considerable flexibility in how to meet them. They can use a variety of tactics, including switching to cleaner-burning natural gas, increasing reliance on wind and solar, and ratcheting up investments in energy efficiency programs.

This state-orientation and policy flexibility perfectly positions SELC to help our region meet—or exceed—the new goals cost-effectively. In fact SELC has already been working to reduce our states’ carbon emissions, and each of our states has seen encouraging progress in recent years.

Reduction of dependence on coal

Coal is the most carbon-heavy of our energy sources, and In the Southeast, SELC has been instrumental in retiring old, uneconomic coal-fired power plants: since 2010 we have helped secured plans or legally binding commitments to retire 30% of the Southeastern coal plant fleet.

Increased energy efficiency

In general the Southeast does not have the strong energy efficiency programs found in other states, so there is potential for significant regional savings on this front. Since 2005 SELC has taken part in over 100 state utility commission proceedings, in many of them highlighting the benefits of greater investments in energy efficiency. 

Increased use of wind and solar power

Solar and wind power hold vast promise as clean and abundant power sources throughout the Southeast, and SELC advocacy continues to yield breakthroughs as our states commit to new solar investments, bringing new jobs to our region.

SELC is also building bipartisan state support for offshore wind energy, emphasizing its economic development and job creation potential. 

Visit EPA's Clean Power Plan website

A state-by-state look at the Clean Power Plan