EPA seeks replacements for Clean Power Plan

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Of all the appointees to the federal government made by the Trump Administration, perhaps the most cynical was Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt repeatedly sued the EPA in alliance with fossil-fuel companies, and his anti-environmental credentials include suing California to try to stop a law to provide humane shelters for egg-laying hens.

Since Pruitt has become head of EPA, he has slashed environmental regulations left and right in the biggest dismantling of a federal agency in recent memory. However, he and Trump have been in a bit of a bind as to what to do about the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Trump promised on the campaign trail to repeal CPP as part of a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, however the real impetus for CPP is not any international agreement.

Instead, it is the Supreme Court’s endangerment finding on CO2 that is the basis for EPA’s actions to regulate CO2. And so on Monday, Pruitt’s EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) aimed at crafting a new plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing sources. It will solicit public comment for 60 days.

Specifically, the ANPRM is looking for opinions on the roles and responsibilities of states and the EPA in regulating existing power plants, as well as how to identify the best regulations that can be applied to the source of emissions.

This is being done in conjunction with a legal motion to repeal CPP, which Pruitt says exceeds the statutory authority of an agency whose core mission he appears to disavow in the first place.

pv magazine has repeatedly noted that the media storm around repeal of CPP misses the fundamentally unambitious details of this plan, and BNEF Senior Analyst Nathan Serota has noted that due to these details, including a compliance period starting in 2022, solar developers were not able to incorporate CPP into their business plans.

However, this does not mean that it is not a loss. GTM Research and other analysts have noted the loss of upside potential that CPP represented, including that it sent a signal to utilities to begin moving towards a decarbonized electricity fleet.

However, despite the best efforts of the Trump Administration coal plants continue to shut down across the nation, and in California even new gas plants are increasingly not being approved in favor of renewable energy and energy storage.