When the first draft of the EPA’s new “Clean Power Plan” came out it was pretty bad. Unfortunately, it didn’t capture much in the way of media attention because there were too many other shiny objects and squirrels out there for cable news to chase after. It was mostly covered in industry publications and unfashionable, pro domestic energy outlets such as this one. The regulations seemed to accomplish little in the way of making any significant change in global emissions while simultaneously crippling the oil and gas industry and floating more “green energy” plans which weren’t pulling their own weight on the energy grid yet.
But the final version had some changes… some big changes. Michael Grunwald, writing at Politico, has slugged through the entire 1560 pages of the rules and located some of the poison pills which were most definitely not in the original draft. And they’ve put a big target on some very specific states.
North Dakota would have been required to cut emissions just 10.6 percent to comply with the draft rule, the least of any state; it will have to cut emissions 44.9 percent to comply with the final rule, the most of any state except for similarly fossil-fueled Montana and South Dakota. Coal-rich Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana were also among the biggest losers in the revised plan. Meanwhile, the states that are already greening their grid—led by Washington, Oregon and New York—were the biggest winners in the final rule.
That is a radical change. The EPA acknowledged in the plan that it “rectifies what would have been an inefficient, unintended outcome of putting the greater reduction burden on lower-emitting sources and states.” As EPA air quality chief Janet McCabe explained to me in an interview: “We got a lot of comments making the same point you did.” But it hasn’t gotten attention, perhaps because coal-state politicians cried wolf so loudly about the draft. It’s the result of a decision to calculate emissions according to a uniform measurement for every power plant rather than a weirdly calibrated analysis of what’s reasonable for individual states.
Think about that for a moment. North Dakota, under the original plan, would have had to reduce emissions by 10.6 percent over the roll out period to be in compliance. That’s a big cut, but with enough advance notice it would have been doable according to most industry analysts. Now, however, with one slip of the pen between the original draft and the final rules, the shale oil rich state will have to slash emissions by almost 45%. The same situation hits their neighbors in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virgina. I wonder what else those states have in common?
But at least this new plan will wean us off of that dirty old coal, right? According to the Clean Power Rules… not so much.
But the big question about the plan is whether it will accelerate America’s ongoing shifts away from coal and towards wind and solar. The answer, according to the plan itself, is no. Its targets are “fully consistent with the recent changes and current trends in electricity generation, and as a result, would by no means entail fundamental redirection of the energy sector.”
I expect that some, if not all of these states will heed Mitch McConnell’s advice and sit on their hands until a challenge to these rules makes it through the courts. Barack Obama’s EPA seems to have learned nothing from the shellacking they took in the Supreme Court in Michigan vs EPA. The court has already ruled that these government regulators have to take extraordinary costs and their impact on the affected states into account when implementing rules, even if you feel you have a solid justification for implementing them. The questions become even more concerning if your “reason” seems to include punishing your political enemies.