9 Things You Need To Know About Obama’s New Climate Rules

What the EPA’s new power plant regulations mean for you.



The rules are finally out. In what some pundits are calling the most important act of President Obama’s second term, on Monday morning the EPA released its “Clean Power Plan.” These are the proposed rules that will require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric power plants. Electric generation accounts for about 40 percent of current U.S. CO2 emissions.

The text of the regulations runs to 645 pages, and it isn’t exactly a page-turner. We suspect you’ve got more fun things to do with your time on this lovely spring day than to read it. So here we answer the nine most important questions about the proposal for you:

1.  What will the rules do? The EPA intends to create a “rate-based” limit on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants for each state depending on its current emissions. Rate-based means it sets a standard for how much CO2 is emitted per megawatt hour of electricity produced, not a limit on total carbon tonnage. The plan is designed, as was expected, to give states maximum flexibility to meet these goals in whichever way works best for them and to avoid constricting economic growth. States can, however, choose to convert their rate-based goal into a total tonnage goal if they prefer.

2.  How much will the plan cut emissions? Nationwide, the plan is projected to reduce power plants’ CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 26 or 27 percent by 2020 and about 30 percent by 2030. What’s strange about these numbers is that EPA is setting an ambitious target for 2020, and then barely improving it over the next decade. That’s pretty weak. As clean energy technology becomes cheaper, states should be able to do a lot more to reduce their emissions. The targets can be strengthened in the future, but don’t expect a President Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush to do so. When asked why the rate reductions are so front-loaded, an EPA senior official told reporters, “Some of the measures [to reduce emissions] can be implemented pretty rapidly.”

Read the rest at Grist.

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired.