New Clean Power Plan will have dramatic impacts on how your electricity is produced

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, August 2, 2015 - The Obama Administration is moving forward with a plan to dramatically change the way electricity is produced in this country by limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a rare Sunday press conference with reporters to provide an overview of the plan that President Barack Obama plans to release on Monday. The “Clean Power Plan,” first outlined in 2014, demands that power plants cut their carbon dioxide output by 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Saying that both coal and natural gas will remain important parts of the U.S. energy mix in 2030, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained that “All we are doing is looking for the most cost-effective, flexible way that we can cut carbon pollution and allow states to actually drive those decisions home.”

Explaining why the final rule achieves a 32 percent carbon reduction by 2030 rather than the 30 percent in the proposed rule a year ago, McCarthy said one reason “is that the projection that we are seeing from the Energy Information Agency . . . is much more than . . . we anticipated even a year ago when we proposed. So we have larger amounts of renewables that are anticipated to be in the energy mix, regardless of this rule. And then we also see an increase in consistent demand reduction which also has a significant influence on how much energy is generated from fossil units.”

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She explained that the combination of the faster deployment of renewable energy sources and reduced energy demand “made the lift that we needed to make through this rule a lot lower in order to achieve” the 32 percent reduction by 2030.

McCarthy said action is needed now and that even farmers know the weather is getting more extreme.

“Longer, hotter summers and more intense storms and droughts are affecting their bottom lines,” McCarthy noted. “Here's the really great news. Our country's clean energy transition is happening faster than anybody anticipated, even as of last year when we proposed the rule. The accelerating trend toward clean power and the growing success of energy efficiency efforts means that carbon emissions are already going down and the pace is picking up . . .”

In a statement, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson, said: "Any increase in the cost of electricity most dramatically impacts those who can least afford it, and the fallout from the EPA's rule will cascade across the nation for years to come.

"While we appreciate the efforts intended to help offset the financial burden of rising electricity prices and jobs lost due to prematurely shuttered power plants, the final rule still appears to reflect the fundamental flaws of the original proposal. It exceeds the EPA's legal authority under the Clean Air Act, and it will raise electricity rates for our country's most vulnerable populations while challenging the reliability of the grid.

"We will continue reviewing this extremely complex rule and have additional comments on behalf of America's not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives in the coming days."

NRECA recently commissioned a study that underscores the devastating relationship between higher electricity prices and job losses. The study, Affordable Electricity: Rural America's Economic Lifeline, measures the impact of a 10 and 25 percent electricity price increase on jobs and gross domestic product (GDP) from 2020 to 2040.

However,Collin O'Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, was very supportive of the newest efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

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In a statement, he said that, “These flexible, achievable, science-based rules represent real progress for protecting wildlife and America's outdoor heritage from the worst impacts of climate change.

“The steps proposed today are broadly popular, both with voters at large and with sportsmen. Hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts experience firsthand how climate impacts are threatening wildlife from coast to coast-from fueling warming trout and salmon runs to toxic algae in Lake Erie and Florida; from record droughts in Texas and California and wildfires destroying forest habitat across the west; and from extreme storms along the East Coast to accelerating erosion in the Gulf. Conserving wildlife, protecting our clean air and water, and safeguarding our communities all require that we reduce carbon pollution.

“The President has provided states with the flexibility necessary to achieve meaningful reductions in a way that unleashes American innovation to maximize benefits and strengthen the economy. From the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to California's carbon trading system, state-based and regional limits on industrial carbon pollution are proven effective at both cutting pollution and creating jobs."

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