Why We Need The Clean Power Plan, And How To Bring It Back

Burning coal or natural gas releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and carbon pollution causes global warming and climate disruption—the most far-reaching and consequential problems we currently face.

Power plants are responsible for massive amounts of carbon dioxide, at least 31 percent of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to regulate the carbon dioxide those plants produce. That’s why the Obama-era EPA released the country’s first standard aimed at cutting carbon from power plants in 2015, calling it the “Clean Power Plan.”

The Clean Power Plan regulated carbon emissions from power plants.
Source: Pexels
The Clean Power Plan regulated carbon emissions from power plants.

What did the Clean Power Plan do

The CPP defined the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants — and made it clear to major polluters that it is no longer acceptable to put unlimited amounts of toxic materials into our air, the Environmental Defense Fund reports.

The EPA’s original projections estimated that the Clean Power Plan would cut the electric sector’s carbon pollution by 32 percent nationally, relative to 2005 levels. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the CPP could have reduced our impact on the environment by removing 870 million tons of carbon pollution from the atmosphere, the equivalent of “canceling out the annual carbon emissions from 70 percent of the nation’s cars or avoiding the pollution from the yearly electricity use of every home in America.”

Climate change is the biggest issue facing the future health of Americans.
Source: Pexels
Climate change is the biggest issue facing the future health of Americans.

The CPP created a sustainable system for stakeholders, setting flexible and achievable standards that gave each state the opportunity to design their own most cost-effective path toward cleaner energy sources, with incentives to encourage investments in renewables and energy efficiency, the EDF maintains.

Why we Need the Clean Power Plan

In 2015, the Obama-era EPA published its own list of reasons why the Clean Power Plan was vital to the environmental health of the U.S.

  • In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas pollutant, accounting for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions and 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Climate change is one of the greatest environmental and public health challenges we face. Climate impacts affect all Americans’ lives – from stronger storms to longer droughts and increased insurance premiums, food prices and allergy seasons.
  • 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history, and 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century.  Recorded temperatures in the first half of 2015 were also warmer than normal.
  • Overwhelmingly, the best scientists in the world, relying on troves of data and millions of measurements collected over the course of decades on land, in air and water, at sea and from space, are telling us that our activities are causing climate change.
  • The most vulnerable among us – including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease and people living in poverty – may be most at risk from the impacts of climate change.
  • Fossil fuel-fired power plants are by far the largest source of U.S. CO2 emissions, making up 31 percent of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Taking action now is critical. Reducing CO2 emissions from power plants, and driving investment in clean energy technologies strategies that do so, is an essential step in lessening the impacts of climate change and providing a more certain future for our health, our environment, and future generations.

Now archived on the EPA’s website, the list now begs the question, what happened to the Clean Power Plan?

The Affordable Clean Energy Plan favors heavy polluters like coal power plants while ignoring alternative sources of fuel.
Source: Pexels
The Affordable Clean Energy Plan favors heavy polluters like coal power plants while ignoring alternative sources of fuel.

What happened to the Clean Power Plan?

Despite dozens of scientists and vetted studies backing up the need for this plan, the Trump administration swapped out the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule in 2019. The new rule cherry-picks technologies to exclude natural gas co-firing of coal power plants and include technologies that are not generally available, it contains inconsistencies that conflict with the EPA’s own processes, and in some cases would actually raise emissions at some plants6.

Taking action now is critical. Reducing CO2 emissions from power plants, and driving investment in clean energy technologies strategies that do so, is an essential step in lessening the impacts of climate change and providing a more certain future for our health, our environment, and future generations.

The Clean Power Plan could help the U.S. reduce its carbon emissions in these critical next few years.
Source: Pexels
The Clean Power Plan could help the U.S. reduce its carbon emissions in these critical next few years.

Join the growing number of others in demanding the EPA reinstate the Clean Power Plan. Click below to make a difference — our future depends on it!

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