Most states on track to meet emissions
targets they call burden
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[September 19, 2016]
By Nichola Groom and Valerie Volcovici
LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON(Reuters) - The 27
states challenging Obama’s Clean Power Plan in court say the lower
emissions levels it would impose are an undue burden. But most are
likely to hit them anyway.
Already, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Dakota appear to
be meeting the CPP's early targets. And changes in the power market,
along with policies favoring clean generation, are propelling most of
the rest toward timely compliance, according to researchers, power
producers and officials, as well as government filings reviewed by
“We are seeing reductions earlier than we ever expected,” U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in an
interview. “It’s a great sign that the market has already shifted and
people are invested in the newer technologies, even while we are in
States engaged in the legal battle that is set for an appellate court
hearing later this month say their concerns go beyond whether they can
meet the mandate. The states, most of them led by Republican governors,
say they object to what they view as federal overreach by Obama and the
Democrats and want to maintain flexibility to make energy decisions at
the state level that reflect changing market conditions.
Cynthia Coffman, attorney general of Colorado, said her state’s likely
ability to comply with the CPP’s mandate “truly is not the issue."
"We don't have anything against clean air," Coffman said. "That really
doesn't factor into my decision to say the federal government has gone
beyond its legal authority.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said that he sees the Clean Power
Plan as a form of federal “coercion and commandeering” of energy policy
and that the state should have “sovereignty to make decisions for its
The Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015 as a
central part of meeting U.S. obligations under the Paris Climate
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed implementation of the rule
pending resolution of the states’ litigation. Later this month, a panel
of the D.C. Circuit Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case.
(For a map showing which U.S. states are on target to meet the EPA's
goals, and which states have sued the EPA, click
The CPP sets carbon-reduction goals for each state, but allows states to
decide how to meet them.
During the early years of implementation, the goals are guidelines
intended to put states on track to meet the final deadline of 2030. If a
state fails to submit a plan to the EPA by interim deadlines, the agency
can impose its own plan on that state's power producers. Failure to
comply by 2030 could open a state up to administrative penalties and
To be sure, some states fighting the mandate would have to drastically
change course to meet it. West Virginia, which is leading the legal
challenge with Texas, still relies largely on carbon-spewing, coal-fired
power. And Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming have large gaps
between their current emissions and the plan's mandates.
But, in a reflection of how rapidly the power market is shifting, the
U.S. government's Energy Information Administration earlier this year
reduced its forecast for 2030 power plant carbon emissions by nearly 11
percent, without factoring in reductions that may be generated by the
Clean Power Plan.
The projection for the nation as a whole would be nearly two-thirds of
the CPP’s target by 2030, even if the law never takes effect.
[to top of second column]
The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca,
West Virginia May 18, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo
A 2015 analysis by consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates for the
Environmental Defense Fund found that 21 of the 27 states suing to
block the Clean Power Plan are on track to meet its 2024 targets
with existing plants and planned investments.
Eighteen states are on track to hit the 2030 targets with no changes
to current plans, according to the Bradley analysis, which was filed
with the court as part of an amicus brief from the Environmental
Defense Fund in support of the government.
And the outlook has improved for some states since the Bradley
forecast. It didn't expect Arkansas, for example, to meet the 2024
target. But in 2015, after shifting significant energy generation
from coal to natural gas, the state reported power plant emissions
for the year that were below the 2030 requirement.
Some of the states contesting the rules say they object to strict
"The CPP is very dramatic in the speed at which it would require
things to happen," said Chris Nelson, chairman of the South Dakota
Public Utilities Commission. "If you let the market play out, those
things take care of themselves."
Texas also has protested the CPP's timetable, saying it would
require the construction of transmission lines that could raise
costs for consumers. But the state already has moved heavily into
wind and solar in recent years, and is nearing its 2030 goals.
John Hall, Texas director for EDF and a former environmental
regulator for the state, said Texas could profit from the rule,
noting the state ranks at the top of the list of wind energy
producers and is making big moves into solar.
“The CPP would enable Texas to make money by exporting wind and
solar electricity,” he said.
States that export coal or gas-fired power, on the other hand, are
concerned about their ability to keep doing so.
“It is very important that we don’t get caught in the fray of an EPA
energy policy that dictates what we do as an exporting state,” said
Stuart Spencer, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
Whatever happens in court, energy policy will remain a highly
charged political issue. Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to
the administration’s attempts to curb carbon emissions.
“When I ran for office, I promised I would do everything in my power
to protect coal miners’ jobs,” said West Virginia Attorney General
Patrick Morrisey in a statement to Reuters. “I have followed through
on that promise.”
(Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Valerie Volcovici in
Washington; Editing by Sue Horton and Lisa Girion)
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