EPA Issues Final Clean Energy Rule

(July 8, 2019) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its final Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, replacing the previous administration’s “overreaching” Clean Power Plan with a regulation it says restores the rule of law and empowers states to continue to reduce emissions while providing affordable and reliable energy for all Americans.

EPA logoThe June 19 action was the culmination of a review of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was done in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13873—Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. The move also follows challenges from a large number of states, trade associations, rural electric cooperatives, and labor unions, who argued the CPP exceeded EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. Writing of a new final rule also came after a stay of CPP by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.

“Today, we are delivering on one of President Trump’s core priorities: ensuring the American public has access to affordable, reliable energy in a manner that continues our nation’s environmental progress,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford. When ACE is fully implemented, we expect to see U.S. power sector CO2 emissions fall by as much as 35% below 2005 levels.”

The ACE rule establishes emissions guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit carbon dioxide, or CO2, at their coal-fired power plants. Specifically, ACE identifies heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction for CO2 from coal-fired plants, and these improvements can be made at individual facilities. States will have three years to submit plans, which is in line with other planning timelines under the Clean Air Act.

Also contained in the rule are new implementing regulations for ACE and future existing-source rules under Clean Air Act Section 111(d). These guidelines will inform states as they set unit-specific standards of performance. For example, states can take a particular source’s remaining useful life and other factors into account when establishing a standard of performance for that source.

ACE will reduce emissions of CO2 and mercury, as well as precursors for pollutants like fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone. In 2030, the ACE rule is projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 11 million short tons; pare sulfur dioxides by 5700 tons, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 7100 tons; cut particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions by 400 tons; and reduce mercury emissions by 59 pounds. EPA projects that ACE will result in annual net benefits of $120 million to $730 million, including costs, domestic climate benefits, and health co-benefits. With ACE, along with additional expected emissions reductions based on long-term industry trends, the administration expects to see CO2 emissions from the electric sector fall by as much as 35% below 2005 levels in 2030. More information, including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and fact sheets, are available at epa.gov.

(Reprinted courtesy The Weekly Propane Newsletter, July 8, 2019)