A Primer for Pennsylvania: President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan”

Updated 1/19/16

The purpose of this post is to address the current actions and timeline of events related to the EPA’s "Clean Power Plan". Subsequent posts will address each of the issues and false assumptions made by the EPA in section 111(d) under the Clean Air Act, commonly referred to as the “Clean Power Plan”.

EPA announced the proposed “Clean Power Plan” to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants in June 2014. Because of the rule’s far reaching impacts beyond just regulating emissions from power plants and on to shifting the nation's electric make-up, rates, reliability, grid systems and state economies, the original 120-day comment period was extended an additional 45 days to December 1, 2014 by which time the EPA had received more than 2 million public comments on this specific section.

In Pennsylvania, thousands of comments were submitted demonstrating bipartisan opposition at every level of government in addition to those filed from associations, groups and residents. Below are comments from the 2014 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Public Utility Commission (PUC) and Pennsylvania Coal Alliance (PCA). You can find the most recent PCA testimony on the proposed rule here (June, 2015). OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON PROPOSED RULE SUBMITTED TO EPA:

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Pennsylvania Coal Alliance

Nationally, the EPA heard from government entities, utilities and grid operators on the rule’s effect on the cost and reliability of energy. Consumer advocates, associations and groups representing middle to low-income families pushed back on the projected increase to electric rates. Chambers of Commerce, manufacturers and all energy-intensive industries confirmed the economic disadvantage this would place on the U.S. to remain globally competitive.

Success according to the EPA’s Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-Gas Induced Climate Change Success, will result in a 0.01°F difference in temperature. In the process of recklessly attaining this miniscule agenda-driven goal, the EPA will force states to dismantle and piece meal together energy markets by mandating renewables into the market mix sponsored by grants and taxpayer subsidies while subsequently raising the cost of electricity and pushing U.S. energy-intensive industries overseas.

Despite millions of comments on the proposed rule’s impact on the economy, jobs and reliability and cost of electricity and opposition from 32 states, the EPA pushed the rule forward with the exclusion of Congress and fair representation from the American public in the process.

The “Clean Power Plan” is more than just environmental regulation. It forces states to make a place, no matter the cost, for wind and solar in their electric markets, usurping the state’s right to determine its own market based on unique needs and individual state resources. This is federal overreach.


On August 3 2015, the EPA posted the final rule on regulating existing power plants. It has not yet been filed in the Federal Register. Significant changes included an updated timeline for compliance, incentives and a stronger push for the adoption of and doubling of the 2030 goal for renewables, the elimination of Building Block 4 (energy effiencies) and an increase in Pennsylvania's reduction mandate from 32% to 35%.

Under the final rule, states are to submit an “Emission Standards” approach or a “State Measures” approach. The “Emission Standards” approach will require reductions directly at the electric generating units, enforceable by the EPA. The “State Measures” approach would “suggest” amending state laws to increase energy efficiency requirements (Act 129) and ramp up renewable portfolio standards (The Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard) along with any other measures to reduce carbon emissions. While this legialtion would not be federally enforceable, should the state fail to achieve the reduced emissions, EPA will force the state to adopt the Federal Implementation Program (FIP) which is currently proposed and expected to be finalized summer 2016.


State associations, organizations and foundations around Pennsylvania have opposed this power grab by the EPA to strip states of their right to determine individual energy policies based on state needs and have spoken out on the implications for this stringent, agenda-driven rule. See their comments below.


In the 2015 legislative session alone, The National Council for State Legislatures reports, legislatures in 31 states introduced 89 bills or resolutions related to the Clean Power Plan and power plants carbon dioxide emissions regulations.

In 2014, Pennsylvania passed Act 175 allowing for the inclusion of appropriate stakeholders and the state legislature to review the State Implementation Plan prior to its submission to the EPA.

In regards to executive action, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued Executive Order 2015-22 in April 2015 barring the state from submitting a 111(d) state plan. Several governors, including Indiana Governor Mike Pence, have sent comments to EPA or letters to President Obama stating their state would not comply with EPA's regulations as they stand.

In the U.S. House and Senate, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to curb the EPA’s overreach and the effects of this rule on the cost and reliability of electricity and national economy.

The U.S. House of Representatives, passed the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 2042), sponsored by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), which would delay implementation of the rule until all legal challenges against the rule have been decided. The bill would also exempt states that demonstrate how the rule would threaten electricity reliability in the state or negatively affect ratepayers. Similarly, the Senate passed the Affordable Reliable Electricity Now Act of 2015 (S. 1324), introduced by Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.V.).

Thank you to Con. Mike Kelly, Con. Scott Perry, Con. Glenn Thompson, Con. Pat Meehan, Con. Michael Fitzpatrick, Con. Bill Shuster, Con. Tom Marino, Con. Lou Barletta, Con. Keith Rothfus, Con. Charlie Dent and Con. Joe Pitts for considering the costs of this rule on your constituents and supporting this legislation.

On August 13, 2015, 15 states petitioned the D.C. courts to file a stay on the rule until it is found a legal regulation. States filed for the stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and asked for a ruling by September 8, 2015.

This is a necessary and valid request as the Supreme Court of the United States remanded the EPA’s rule on Mercury Air Toxins back to the D.C. Courts in June, 2015. It was ruled that the regulation caused more harm than good. Unfortunately, the rule had already been in effect for 3 years and many plants had made the costly investments.

The cost of developing the carbon emissions rule will be much higher and states will be burdened with spending the time and resources to piece together their electric systems to comply - all at the cost of the ratepayer through infrastructure build outs, increased electric rates and taxpayer subsidies for renewables.

Unfortunately, the courts determined that the regulation must be published prior to ruling on a stay.

EPA requires initial state plans to be filed by September 2016 and a two-year extension may be

requested at that time.​​

Gov. Wolf and Sec. Quigley have repeatedly said they will develop a Pennsylvania-centric plan that maintains coal’s role in the energy portfolio.

As it is the PUC's responsibility to balance the needs of consumers and utilities to ensure safe and reliable utility services at reasonable rates, they will be studying the impacts of the rule and State Implementation Plan on the electric market and consumer in Pennsylvania.

The rule was finally published in the Federal Register on October 23, 2015.

“The EPA waited almost three months to publish the carbon emissions rule in the Federal Register. Unfortunately, for a state like Pennsylvania that is pushing to submit a final plan by September 2016, this “run the clock” ploy by the EPA has cut into our already limited time. Numerous states and organizations stand ready to litigate and it is our hope that this process moves quickly and that a stay is granted so that legal challenges can be addressed prior to Pennsylvania’s submission,” said PCA CEO, John Pippy.

Immediately following the rule being published, a petition for a stay and lawsuits were filed from 27 states that represent 60 percent of the nation’s energy supply, 24 national trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers -- representing more than 80% of the U.S. economy, 37 rural electric cooperatives, ten major companies and three labor unions representing 878,000 employees. A decision on the petition for a stay should be published in the first quarter of 2016.

The Clean Energy Incentive Program and Federal Implementation Program, integral parts of the Clean Power Plan have yet to be published and are rumored to be finalized Summer 2016.

Additionally, buried in the EPA's rule, states must inform and work with residents that will be most affected by the rule’s implications. This includes regions of the state that strongly rely on the coal industry for jobs and taxes for their local economy base as well as low-income communities that will be affected most by the increase in the cost of the electricity. The Rule also requires the state to determine and carry out solutions to best address and remediate these impacts. As a result, DEP hosted a 60-day open comment period and listening sessions on how Pennsylvania should comply which concluded November 12, 2015. DEP continues to maintain that Pennsylvania will forgo the available two-year extension and submit a plan by September 2016.

Remind Gov. Wolf of the importance of coal and his Administration's promise to protect it as it supports Pennsylvania's jobs, economy, the cost and reliability of electricity and position as an energy leader.