EPA Director Pruitt to Rescind Clean Power Plan

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On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, Chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt signed a measure to officially start unraveling President Obama’s signature policy to curb nationwide greenhouse gas emissions.

The Clean Power Plan, formally titled “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” was introduced into the Federal Register officially on October 23, 2015 (80 FR 64661) and became effective on December 22, 2015. The Clean Power Plan was a first for the United States in its effort of developing plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). The plan was written and introduced upon conclusion of the Paris Climate Accords, at the conclusion of which President Obama is quoted as stating “this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.”

Scott Pruitt, known for being a prominent opponent to the Clean Power Plan while he was still the Attorney General of Oklahoma, signaled this end to the supposed “war on coal” while standing in a coal equipment business in Kentucky. The action formally starts work on a top campaign promise from President Trump, delivering a win to fossil fuel companies and business groups. The move begins to tear down the main pillar of Obama’s second-term climate change agenda, where he sought to use executive authority to fight climate change after Congress declined to pass cap-and-trade legislation.

What Happens Now?

The next step for the EPA is to publish its proposal to repeal Obama’s plan in the Federal Register. That starts a 60-day public comment period where companies, associations, environmental groups, states and individuals can weigh in with the government.

The EPA will have to review all of the comments and respond to any major issues that parties raise. If anyone wants to sue the EPA over its final regulation, they would only be allowed to sue on the basis of issues that they raised in their comments.

The EPA could also extend the 60-day comment period. For the original Clean Power Plan, the Obama EPA allowed 165 days of comments. Under Obama, the agency received more than 4 million comments, and the review process of these comments took nearly 14 months.

After the review period, EPA will have to publish a final version of the repeal, with any changes or explanations it deems necessary. At that point, it will be final.