Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court paused implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to allow an appeals court to consider a legal challenge from a number of states, corporations and industry groups. That case is being expedited, and a decision is expected by the fall.
Importantly, the Supreme Court’s decision to grant a temporary stay was not based on the legal merits of the CPP, which calls for emissions reductions throughout states’ power sectors. Experts agree that the CPP is on solid legal ground and will prevail. Indeed, previously the Supreme Court not only upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act (which the Clean Power Plan builds upon), the Court found the agency had the obligation to do so to protect Americans’ health.
We expect yesterday’s ruling to be only a temporary time out as the CPP heads to full implementation. As the legal case proceeds, the EPA has indicated it will continue to help states put in place the plans and tools they need to comply with the rule, and the Obama administration has committed to continue taking aggressive steps to reduce emissions and lead in the fight against climate change.
Clean Power Plan: Smart, Balanced and Beneficial
The benefits of the plan are clear, far-reaching and worth fighting for. The CPP offers a smart, balanced approach that will cut dangerous pollution as it drives innovation, creates new job opportunities and improves public health. The CPP is one of the most important near-term tools the United States can use to help reach its goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In addition, the plan will make our air safer to breathe by reducing Americans’ exposure to particulate matter and ground-level ozone, benefiting our health and the economy by an estimated $25 billion to $65 billion – far more than the $7 billion to $9 billion cost of compliance, according to the EPA.
Together with all the other actions the administration has taken so far the United States is showing the world it is serious about combatting climate change. WRI’s study Seeing Is Believing provides many real-world examples demonstrating how sustained technological progress and public policies are creating opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while delivering net economic benefits.
States Are Already Well On their Way to Complying
Most states are already laying plans to comply with the CPP. In fact, polling shows that 61 percent of the public in states suing to stop the plan actually support the policy. WRI analysis found that Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Missouri all can meet or exceed their CPP targets by following through or expanding upon their current clean energy policies and making better use of existing infrastructure, such as through fuller utilization of natural gas plants and increasing efficiency at coal plants.
We also found that investments made in renewable energy and energy efficiency are already bringing economic benefits to each of these states. Complying with the Clean Power Plan could bring even more benefits. For example, assuming a modest carbon price, Pennsylvania could generate more than $160 million per year in revenue between 2022 and 2030 from out-of-state sources if it surpasses its CPP target by expanding its clean energy policies and making better use of existing natural gas and coal plants. This revenue could then be re-invested in clean energy, or provide assistance to low-income households and coal industry workers.
It’s Not Just States Who Are Acting on Climate Change
Along with states, many cities and businesses are embracing this future and recognizing the benefits of a low-carbon economy. New York, Chicago, Austin, Portland and other cities have joined the Compact of Mayors, committing to measure and develop action plans to reduce their emissions, and publicly report on their progress. Forward-thinking businesses such as Exelon, Walmart, Unilever, Microsoft and Kellogg’s are setting ambitious emissions-reduction targets and scaling up smart energy investments. And more than 1,000 companies have expressed their support for a carbon price.
As WRI President Andrew Steer recently stated in congressional testimony: “Transitioning to a clean energy economy will create hundreds of thousands of more jobs, increase GDP and save families money on energy bills. But if unchecked, the negative economic impact of climate change will profoundly undermine the U.S. economy.”
Next Steps for Climate Action in the United States and Abroad: Onward and Upward
With the consequences of climate change becoming clearer by the day, America must not drag its feet. Temperatures have exceeded global annual averages for 38 consecutive years. The impacts are being felt in America and all around the world.
Legal experts are confident that the courts will uphold the CPP and allow the rule to bring affordable, clean energy to millions of Americans. The U.S. administration has been crystal clear about its ongoing support for the Paris Agreement and commitment to achieve its 2025 climate targets.
We urge all countries to continue moving forward on their climate actions in the months and years ahead. On April 22nd—Earth Day—political leaders from across the globe will reaffirm that commitment by formally signing the Paris Agreement. We are confident that the United States will be among those signing in New York.