VIDEO: Final EPA Clean Power Plan seeks 32 percent CO2 cut by 2030

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The President Barack Obama administration said over the weekend that the revised EPA Clean Power Plan would seek a 32 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

While this is a greater reduction than the 30 percent target set in the draft version of the rule, the CO2 reduction however can be implemented more incrementally than the original proposal.

EPA received more than four million public comments since the original version that was made public in June 2014. The administration said the final rule responds to stakeholder comment.

Whether the revisions outlined in the final version blunts various legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan remains to be seen.

State plans are due in September of 2016, but states that need more time can make an initial submission and request extensions of up to two years for final plan submission, the White House said Aug. 3.

The compliance-averaging period begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual “glide path” to 2030. Many electric utilities had complained that the original had a so-called “2020 cliff” because such a high degree of reduction was required by 2020.

The final rule will include a ‘safety valve’ to better ensure reliability. The rule requires states to address reliability in their state plans. The final rule also provides a “reliability safety valve” to address any reliability challenges that arise on a case-by-case basis.

The final rule provides more flexibility in how state plans can be designed and implemented, including: streamlined opportunities for states to include proven strategies like trading and demand-side energy efficiency in their plans, and allows states to develop “trading ready” plans to participate in “opt in” to an emission credit trading market with other states taking parallel approaches without the need for interstate agreements.

“All low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, natural gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, can play a role in state plans,” according to a fact sheet distributed by EPA.

The revised program will also set up a Clean Energy Incentive Program will also give a head start to wind and solar deployment and prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities.

Taken together these measures put the U.S. on track to achieve the president’s near-term target to reduce emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and lay a strong foundation to deliver against the administration’s long-term target to reduce emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The release of the Clean Power Plan continues momentum towards international climate talks in Paris in December, building on announcements to-date of post-2020 targets by countries representing 70 percent of global energy based carbon emissions, the administration said.

EPA is also releasing a proposed federal plan today. This proposed plan will provide a model states can use in designing their plans, and when finalized, will be a backstop to ensure that the Clean Power Plan standards are met in every state.

President Obama also released a two-minute video on Sunday, Aug. 2, to promote the Clean Power Plan. “A memo to America” was the title of the two-minute video message on climate change.

In the video, President Barack Obama cites hotter summers, more severe storms and tougher wildfire seasons in recent years, which are apparently connected with climate change.

The EPA rule marks “the biggest most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change,” Obama said. Until now there have been no federal limits on the amount of CO2 that can be emitted, Obama said.

“We can’t condemn our kids and grandkids to a planet that is beyond fixing,” Obama said. “It is time for America and the world to act on climate change.”

The White House says that the Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths.

Reaction to the plan started before 9 a.m. ET on Aug. 3 by many organizations.

The final Clean Power Plan rule clears a path for multistate collaboration on emissions reduction, said Bipartisan Policy Center senior advisor Jennifer Macedonia.

“While many states continue to express strong reservations about the rule, there is clear desire for states to have maximum flexibility to design plans that are attuned to local and regional interests, state objectives, and current trends in the power sector,” Macedonia said.

“With this final rule, EPA has created space for states to allow affected companies to work across state lines to access the lowest cost emission reductions, whether within their fleet or elsewhere in the system. States have asked EPA to provide a less cumbersome pathway to multistate cooperation and early indications are that EPA has illuminated such a path,” said the BPC official, Macedonia.

Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh praised the plan. “I am proud of the work NRDC has done to help make that happen. Now we are going to fight with everything we’ve got to ensure the plan moves forward and provides the necessary momentum for unified global action,” Suh said.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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