What Do the 2016 Elections Mean for the Clean Power Plan?

cpp_supportmap_600President-Elect Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a “hoax,” and has appointed notorious climate denier Myron Ebell to run the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the campaign, Trump advocated for “scrapping” the Clean Power Plan – the nation’s first limits on harmful climate pollution from existing power plants, which are among the United States’ very largest sources of these contaminants.

Lost in this campaign rhetoric was the reality that states and companies across the country are already making cost-effective investments in transformative clean energy technologies that are rapidly reducing emissions of climate pollution across the power sector. These investments are helping deliver a more reliable and affordable electricity grid, yielding tremendous public health benefits by reducing emissions of soot and smog-forming pollutants, and driving job growth in communities around the country.

The Clean Power Plan builds on all of these trends and helps ensure they will continue for years to come, but the Trump Administration will be hard pressed to stop the progress underway in its tracks.

If Trump does try to roll back the Clean Power Plan, he will find himself on the wrong side of history, the law, and public opinion. The Clean Power Plan is firmly rooted in our nation’s clean air laws, and there are millions of Americans across the country – along with a broad and diverse coalition of states, cities, businesses, faith organizations, consumer advocates, and other leaders – who support these protections and will fight to preserve them.

Large Majorities of Americans Support the Clean Power Plan.

Donald Trump did not get elected with a mandate to dismantle important climate protections supported by large majorities of Americans. Poll after poll shows that Americans all across this country — in red and blue states alike — broadly support clean air, clean energy, and climate progress. This includes strong, diverse support for the Clean Power Plan, even in states currently suing over the standards. More than two-thirds of voters favor federal action to reduce emissions of pollutants that cause climate change.

If the new administration tries to take steps to roll back these important measures, they will have to do so knowing that they are woefully out of touch with the majority of the American people.

Weakening or rescinding the Clean Power Plan, or other public health and environmental protections, also won’t do anything to address the economic concerns that did figure prominently in Trump’s campaign.

As recent analyses by respected energy experts have demonstrated, the coal industry has been experiencing declining production and employment due to factors that have nothing to do with the Clean Power Plan – including intense competition from natural gas, the falling cost of renewables, and a slew of bad investment decisions. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently expressed doubt that attacking environmental regulations will cause a turnaround for the coal industry.

At the same time, undoing the Clean Power Plan could adversely and needlessly affect long-term growth in America’s vibrant clean energy industry –  which currently supports hundreds of thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs around the country, and employs far more people than the coal or oil and gas industries.

Leading Businesses, Cities of All Sizes and in All Regions Support the Clean Power Plan

In addition to enjoying the support of millions of Americans, limits on carbon pollution represent good business and good governance. Our cities, states, and companies support limits on climate pollution and investments in new, clean energy technologies that bring jobs and economic opportunity to our communities.

The week after the election, more than 360 of the nation’s leading businesses — including DuPont, General Mills, Levi Strauss, Nike, and Starbucks — signed a remarkable statement urging Trump to honor the United States’ commitments in the Paris Agreement to reduce dangerous climate pollution. These companies declared that “Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” and that the “right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness.”

In addition to enjoying the support of millions of Americans, limits on carbon pollution represent good business and good governance.

Power companies that together own or operate one of every 10 megawatts of the nation’s generating capacity – including some of the nation’s largest operators of fossil fuel powered plants – are supporting the Clean Power Plan in court.

So are many large energy users. Leading businesses that employ tens of thousands of people in all regions of the country — including Adobe, Apple, Amazon, Google, IKEA, Mars, and Microsoft — recognize the importance of the Clean Power Plan to their economic growth and are also supporting the rule. More than 100 of America’s top companies signed a public statement this spring calling for “swift implementation” of the Clean Power Plan.

Adding to this groundswell of support, 18 States, 60 cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National League of Cities are supporting the these standards in court. These municipalities include major cities in states that are litigating against the Clean Power Plan, such as Houston, Grand Rapids, and Miami.  Many of these cities are on the front lines of climate change and they know their citizens don’t want leaders who put politics above their safety and well-being.

Our Nation’s Clean Air Laws Require EPA to Protect the Public from Harmful Pollutants that are Destabilizing Our Climate

EPA has a legal responsibility to protect the public from dangerous climate pollution that threatens our prosperity, security, and public health.

The Supreme Court has affirmed EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act three times since 2007, including EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act provision that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan.

As so many Americans around the country recognize, the Clean Power Plan is a common-sense and cost-effective step towards fulfilling this bedrock legal obligation. Many companies and states also recognize that it provides unprecedented compliance flexibility that may not be replicated in another regulatory approach. Although Congress could attempt to modify or roll back the Clean Power Plan by amending the Clean Air Act, such action would be extremely controversial and encounter especially stiff opposition. Americans across the country — and the numerous states, municipalities, businesses, consumer advocates, faith organizations, and other leaders who support the Clean Power Plan — will vigorously oppose any attempt to weaken these vital, hard-fought protections for climate and public health.

The Incoming Administration Cannot Simply Dismantle the Clean Power Plan by Fiat

In addition to deep support, proponents of a safer climate have America’s bipartisan bedrock clean air laws on our side.

Any attempt to withdraw or modify the Clean Power Plan or other clean air protections would first have to go through the same rigorous, inclusive public notice and comment process that EPA carefully followed in adopting them. Such changes would also be subject to judicial review in the federal courts, and would be set aside if they are contrary to the Clean Air Act or do not rest on sound technical and policy foundations.

Previous Administrations that have attempted to make sweeping changes to Clean Air Act protections – including the George W. Bush Administration – abandoned these efforts in the face of strong public opposition and defeat in the federal courts.

The Clean Power Plan Builds on and Accelerates the Transition to a Clean Energy Future that is Already Under Way in the Power Sector

Perhaps the biggest reason opponents shouldn’t expect to overturn the Clean Power Plan overnight is that this important rule is only cementing the direction our energy system has been moving for years.

States and power companies across the country recognize this transition is the best way to provide ratepayers with affordable, reliable, and low carbon electricity – and they understand that the Clean Power Plan provides a common-sense, flexible, cost-effective framework for achieving those goals.

Even without the Clean Power Plan targets in effect, the Energy Information Administration has reported that power sector carbon emissions have fallen by 21 percent since 2005 –almost two-thirds of the way towards meeting the Clean Power Plan’s 2030 emission reduction targets.

Wind and solar are expected to account for almost two-thirds of the electric generating capacity added to the grid in 2016. Many states are on track to fully meet their Clean Power Plan reduction targets. Meanwhile, retail electricity prices actually fell in 2016 for the first time in many years.

That doesn’t mean the Trump Administration can’t attack the Clean Power Plan. We fully expect a fight, and we know it won’t be easy. But we are ready to fight – and we hope you’ll join us.

The transition to a clean energy future is already well underway, and it cannot and will not be stopped. The health and prosperity of America’s families and communities depend on it.

This post originally appeared on our Climate 411 blog.

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  • About the author

    Attorney
    Tomás is a member of EDF’s Climate and Air Legal and Regulatory team, where he engages in regulatory, litigation, and policy advocacy directed at mitigating climate change and reducing emissions of harmful pollutants that threaten public health and welfare.

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