Federal 'Clean Power Plan' turns focus to renewables

Federal 'Clean Power Plan' turns focus to renewables

Clean Power Plan aims to curb power plant emissions, though doesn't allow states to work with farmers to secure offsets for carbon emissions

Continuing a series of efforts to curb emissions from power plants and in some cases, bring agriculture under the canopy of GHG control, the U.S. EPA and White House on Monday unveiled the final "Clean Power Plan," which calls on the power sector to cut carbon pollution by 870 million tons by 2030.

Related: White House Assessment Calls for 'Urgent Action' on Climate Change

The cut is equivalent to a rate of 30% below 2005 levels.

According to EPA, power plants are the largest drivers of climate change in the United States, accounting for roughly one-third of all carbon pollution emissions, but there were no national limits on carbon pollution.

Clean Power Plan aims to curb power plant emissions, though doesn't allow states to work with farmers to secure offsets for carbon emissions

The Clean Power Plan accelerates the transition to a "clean energy future," EPA said. In addition to proposed cuts, other reductions will come from pollutants that can create soot and smog.

Under the plan, sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90% lower and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72% lower, compared to 2005 levels.

"We're proud to finalize our historic Clean Power Plan," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "The valuable feedback we received means the final Clean Power Plan is more ambitious yet more achievable, so states can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses and utilities."

More than 4.3 million public comments were recieved on the proposal, and EPA said it conducted hundreds of meetings with stakeholders.

Today, the United States uses three times more wind and 20 times more solar energy than it did in 2009, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.

Related: USDA lays out broad climate change mitigation plan

The plan sets state-by-state goals that build on a growing clean energy economy. It establishes guidelines for states to follow in developing and implementing their plans, including requirements that vulnerable communities have a seat at the table with other stakeholders.

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EPA is proposing a model rule states can adopt, as well as a federal plan that the EPA will put in place if a state fails to submit an adequate plan. Both the proposed model rule and federal plan focus on emissions trading mechanisms to make sure utilities have flexibility to reach their carbon pollution reduction goals.

EPA also finalized standards to limit carbon pollution from new, modified and reconstructed power plants.

No carbon offsets
According to the National Farmers Union, the plan has the ability to limit GHGs, which will ultimately benefit farmers, though it does not "engage family farmers in its efforts to build climate resiliency," NFU President Roger Johnson said.

“The final rule does not allow states to comply by working with farmers to secure offsets for their emissions. NFU urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider such offsets in state compliance plans due next summer," Johnson commented. "This would allow farmers to help cooperatives manage rates and provide value to farmers subject to rate increases. NFU stands ready to assist the administration in its efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Renewable energy group 25x'25 praised the plan, however, for bringing the way the U.S. meets energy needs "into the 21st century" by encouraging alternative energy sources that ultimately lower costs, create new jobs, enhance energy security and benefit the environment.

However, the group also criticized EPA for not allowing states to count soil carbon sequestration achieved through ag practices toward their respective targets.

"This oversight eliminates the nearest-term, lowest-cost mechanism for reducing carbon in our atmosphere," the group said.

TAGS: USDA
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