USGBC Wisconsin: The Clean Power Plan and energy efficiency
USGBC Wisconsin was proud to feature attorney Matt Frank as a guest speaker for the 2015 Annual Member Meeting last December. The session garnered valuable discussion about potential impacts of the Clean Power Plan for businesses in Wisconsin. For those who were unable to join us for this discussion, Matt has generously provided a summary highlighting important facts and dates associated with the Clean Power Plan.
- On October 23, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Clean Power Plan (CPP) final rule. The rule requires a 32 percent nationwide reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants by 2030. The CPP also establishes emission limits for each state, with Wisconsin’s reduction target set at 34 percent.
- The CPP provides flexibility to each state in meeting the reduction targets. Options include improving the heat efficiency of power plants, switching from coal to natural gas, expanded use of renewable energy such as wind and solar and investing in energy efficiency. A state must submit its plan to the EPA by September 2016, with the potential to receive an extension from the EPA until 2018. If no state plan is submitted, a state will be required to follow a federal plan developed by the EPA.
- Because multiple studies have shown that investments in energy efficiency are highly cost-effective, the EPA expects that energy efficiency will make a significant contribution in reducing carbon dioxide emissions under the CPP. Through its practical experience in the development of LEED standards, the green building industry is uniquely positioned to add value in the development of state plans under the CPP.
Including Wisconsin, 28 states have sued the EPA to invalidate the rule, while 18 states have intervened in support of the rule. On January 21, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied a request for a stay of the rule. The petitioners then asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, which was granted on February 9, 2016. Implementation of the CPP is now on hold. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments on the merits of the case in June.
The Supreme Court’s decision to grant a stay of the CPP was very unusual. Typically the Court does not grant a stay of a regulation before is fully reviewed. While the Court’s action does not necessarily translate into a decision on the merits overturning the CPP, it indicates that a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court is sympathetic to the arguments raised by the petitioners.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will now decide the merits of the case after arguments that are scheduled for June. Regardless of the outcome in that court, the case will eventually end up in the Supreme Court for a final decision.