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Fact vs. Fiction: EPA's Clean Power Plan

06 Aug 2015  |   CPP Fact vs Fiction

Tags: Climate Change

The Obama Administration recently unveiled their historic Clean Power Plan, our country’s first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.  The final plan sets state targets that collectively add up to a 32% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030 and provides a flexible framework that allows states to craft the solutions that work best for their communities. This is, undeniably, the greatest punch America’s thrown in the fight against climate change.

Not surprisingly, corporate polluters and their Washington allies—desperate to defend industry profits and hold onto outdated, dirty, and dangerous sources of energy—started plotting over a year ago on how to fight the plan, and they continue to rely on the same old false claims to try and scare the American people. It’s a tired playbook we’ve seen over and over, whenever steps are taken to cut pollution and protect public health.    

Here is a reality check on some of the top myths about the EPA’s carbon pollution limits: 

Myth #1: The Clean Power Plan will cost billions, crippling the U.S. economy.

Fact: Ever since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, polluters and their allies have predicted dire costs of cutting pollution and safeguarding public health.  And time and again, polluters’ doomsday claims have been proven wrong.  The Clean Power Plan’s estimated net economic benefit reaches into the billions. 

Yes, as with any new program, complying with the Clean Power Plan will have costs, but compliance costs are only a part of the picture. So, while the EPA found that complying with the rule will cost $8.4 billion over the next 15 years, this cost is offset by the enormous benefits that addressing climate change and improving public health will provide: the EPA estimates a net economic benefit of $26-45 billion.  

For decades, polluters have dramatically overstated the economic costs of environmental and public health safeguards.  For example, in 1990, when the EPA used its authority under the Clean Air Act to combat acid rain, the industry claimed that the lights would go out and business around the country would suffer. In reality, retrofitting power plants to comply with the regulation ended up costing about a fifth of what industry predicted, and these costs were far outweighed by the benefits achieved. 

Furthermore, according to an EPA report, the benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments have outweighed the costs by a rate of more than 30:1.  By 2020, the benefits of the Clean Air Act are estimated to reach at $2 trillion if we continue enforcing the Act. 

We also have real life examples that demonstrate that tackling carbon pollution boosts the economy. For instance, since 2012, those states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort by nine states to reduce carbon emissions, have injected more than $1.3 billion into the regional economy and saved consumers $460 million on their electric bills.

Myth #2: Electricity bills will skyrocket, hitting our low income communities the hardest.

Fact: The Clean Power Plan will use energy smarter and save families money on their electric bills.   

The EPA estimates that under the Clean Power Plan electricity bills will drop by roughly 7 %.  By 2030, the average family will save $7 every month on their electric bills.

Furthermore, the Clean Power Plan prioritizes investment in energy efficiency projects in low income communities, awarding these projects double credit towards a state’s plan in 2020 and 2021.  This will help ensure these communities—often disproportionally impacted by pollution—will see reduced energy bills and better health outcomes.  

Myth #3: The Clean Power Plan will eliminate millions of U.S. jobs.

Fact: The Clean Power Plan will create tens of thousands of jobs in both the electricity and energy efficiency sectors.

The EPA’s detailed analysis of the Clean Power Plan found that it would create 25,900-29,800 job-years in the electricity, coal and natural gas sectors by 2020, and 57,000-78,800 jobs in the energy efficiency industry by the same date.

Two independent studies predict the Clean Power Plan will lead to a net increase of nearly 300,000 jobs. 

On a state and regional level, programs reducing carbon pollution have created thousands and thousands of jobs. An analysis of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) found that over the past three years RGGI led to nearly 14,200 new jobs in the region, with net job additions in each state.

Myth #4: The Clean Power Plan threatens the reliability of Americans’ electricity.

Fact:  Clean air safeguards have never caused the lights to go out. The Clean Power Plan provides states and utilities with the flexibility they need to ensure energy is delivered reliably.

A study, led by economist Jürgen Weiss of the Brattle Group, concludes that “compliance with the CPP is unlikely to materially affect reliability,” citing the Clean Power Plan’s flexibility, the ongoing transformation of the power sector and available technology as “sufficient to ensure that compliance will not come at the cost of reliability.”

Cheryl Roberto, the former commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, points out that the Clean Power Plan’s flexibility—allowing states to determine their own route to compliance—will protect grid reliability because plans will be resource-specific.    

Furthermore, climate change is a real threat to our power grid. Climate change impacts like extreme weather and dramatic temperature fluctuations create “peak events” that put pressure on the electric grid.  

Myth #5: The Clean Power Plan takes control away from the states.

Fact:  The Clean Power Plan empower states, enabling each individual state to develop an implementation plan tailored to their own needs.   

The Clean Power Plan set an individual carbon reduction target for each state, based on the state’s particular mix of power sources. In fact, after collecting stakeholder input during the comment period, the EPA modified the way they set targets in order to better reflect the realities states are facing.  The next step: states develop their own implementation plan to meet their target.

Each state has until September of 2016 to submit an initial plan to cut carbon pollution from the power sector.  Should a state need more time to compose their plan, they can request an extension of up to two years. 

(Photograph by arbyreed)

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