EPA, White House Release Clean Power Plan

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and President Barack Obama introduce the Clean Power Plan. Announcement begins at 3:45. Video courtesy the White House.

Today, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy officially released the new Clean Power Plan, which has seen a great deal of build-up over recent months. President Obama has been active in promoting the Plan, as he is a vocal proponent of strengthening the standards to which power plants must adhere to combat climate change.

The final draft of the Clean Power Plan builds on past versions, raising the target to cut emissions 32% by 2030 (compared to 2005). To offset this change, states will now have until 2022 to comply with the measures. In the original draft, states had until 2020 to reduce emissions by 30%.

The Plan allows states to choose their strategy for attaining their assigned emissions reduction levels, meaning that the new energy mix could be formed in a variety of ways. Despite previous frustration that the Plan disproportionately underrepresents the carbon-mitigating capacity of nuclear energy, the new Clean Energy Incentive Program still limits its benefits to wind and solar power.

The final text makes significant changes from the June 2014 text with regard to nuclear power. Although it acknowledges the progress that 5.5 GW of new nuclear capacity in development (under construction or in advanced planning) represents, the final Plan removes nuclear from consideration in the best system of emission reduction (BSER). The high cost of new nuclear projects in comparison to the explosion of increasingly efficient investment in other renewables is cited as a reason for its exclusion, as well as the fact that existing nuclear capacity is beneficial but will not reduce CO2 emissions further. New or uprated nuclear generation is still considered a measure that reduces CO2 emission rates despite not being included in the BSER.

The Plan will, however, continue to have a significant effect on the coal industry in particular. This will represent a vital shift in the United States’ energy mix and emissions portfolio, as coal alone constituted 76% of total electricity generation-related emissions in 2014.

Although the final Clean Power Plan may not have panned out exactly as nuclear energy proponents hoped, this is still a historic development. The Obama administration has taken and defended a dramatic stance on climate change. Adopting this Plan sends a resounding message about the United States’ commitment to climate change mitigation, and its long-term impact will be significant.

Read the full final Plan

Read a summary of the Clean Power Plan here