R.I.P. CPP: A Eulogy for the Clean Power Plan

funeral mourner laying flowers on a casket

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today to say our goodbyes to the Clean Power Plan. With us are some of the Clean Power Plan’s relatives – the Clean Air Act and Massachusetts v. EPA. Thank you for being here. We know this is a loss for all of us in the energy efficiency community.

I won’t dwell on this, but it’s important for everyone to know that the Clean Power Plan was a victim of the federal rulemaking process. On October 10, 2017 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to repeal the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan was originally proposed by the Obama Administration in 2015 to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants by 32% by 2030. The proposed rule had set targets for each state to reduce its emissions, allowing each state flexibility as they planned how to meet the required reduction targets. Implementation and enforcement of the Clean Power Plan has stalled since February 9, 2016 when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the rule until legal challenges were resolved.  The NOPR was published in the Federal Register on October 16, 2017, commencing a 60-day public comment period. Public comments can be submitted online.

We may remember that the Clean Power Plan, or “CPP” as it was affectionately known, was expected to be potential boon to energy efficiency. We all know that energy efficiency is the lowest cost resource and would have been an excellent compliance option for states to reduce emissions. We mourn that potential opportunity, but let’s reflect and move on. It’s what CPP would have wanted.

The Clean Power Plan was a rulemaking that, in its short life, spurred passionate debate, created deep fissures and strange bedfellows, and racked up many billable hours for lawyers and consultants alike. Over the years there were so many committees, subcommittees, working groups, and task forces in your honor. You filled our conversation with words like “heat rate,” “mass-based,” and “leakage.” It’s maybe hardest to say goodbye to your lengthy technical support documents. Just thinking of them brings a wry smile to my face.

Although you are gone in your current form, you are not forgotten. In fact, Governor McAuliffe in Virginia signed Executive Directive 11 (2017) in May of this year, directing the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to create a proposed carbon regulation for the electricity sector by December 31.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission adopted a social cost of carbon. The current cost per short ton, ranging from 44 cents - $4.53, will rise to $9.05 - $43.06 in 2020. It was a 3-2 vote among the commissioners and I can’t help thinking that you were there, in the room, as they voted.

PJM Interconnection is also raising a glass with their recently published Advancing Zero Emissions Objectives through PJM’s Energy Markets: A Review of Carbon-Pricing Frameworks. While the ideas proposed in this paper are far from becoming policy, I can see you in it. Remember talk of multi-state coordination? Oh, we had so much fun together. 

You were a fun firehose to drink from. See you in the low-carbon afterlife.  


August 3, 2015 - October 10, 2017