Clean Power Plan Advances Another Step Forward

Well, there you have it. Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a petition by Clean Power Plan opponents, led by fossil fuel industry interests and several states to suspend implementation of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. The CPP was debated, commented on, and modified to reflect the views of many stakeholders before being adopted to provide greater clarity and compliance flexibility. The Plan also supports the US’ commitment to reduce carbon emissions as negotiated at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris (COP21).

As widely known, the suspension “stay” was opposed by EPA and a number of high profile intervenors, including 17 states and cities led by New York, environmental and clean energy advocates. If we have learned anything in addressing climate change, it is that a concerted effort led by industry and government can significantly reduce carbon emissions. Emissions continue to fall as the energy sector transitions to cleaner burning fossil fuels and advances in generation technology, and widespread adoption of renewable energy resources. This can be done – and the US can support and help lead developing countries in bypassing the carbon cycle in electricity generation and transportation, and exporting technology and intellectual capital.

The D.C. Circuit Court’s denial of petitioners’ stay motion is fantastic news for the environment, public health, and for our nation. The most important implication of this order is that a procedural cloud of uncertainty over the implementation of the rule has now been lifted and states and utilities will continue their planning efforts to implement the rule.

The US Court of Appeals decision, while a significant win for supporters of the CPP, is nonetheless not the end of the discussion or litigation. States can now begin planning for compliance if they have not already, involving stakeholders and other interested parties, including proponents and opponents, to meeting the State Implementation Plan submission by September 6, 2016. Some of the uncertainty regarding CPP’s staying power is now eliminated.

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