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233 Mayors Object to EPA's Proposal to Scrap Clean Power Plan

A shuttered coal power station on the banks of the Cheat River in Preston County, West Virginia, during October 2017.

A shuttered coal power station on the banks of the Cheat River in Preston County, West Virginia, during October 2017. shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The local government leaders say they'd benefit from the "support and certainty that a federal framework for reducing the power sector’s greenhouse gas emissions could provide."

More than 200 mayors from around the U.S. voiced opposition Tuesday to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed repeal of Obama-era rules meant to curb air pollution from power plants.

EPA issued a rule-making notice in October saying it wanted to scrap the policy, known as the Clean Power Plan. The mayors, 233 of them from 46 states and territories, say this move would put their residents at risk and undermine efforts to address climate change.

"Our communities have experienced harmful impacts of climate change such as dirtier air, increased heat-related illnesses and deaths, damaged and disappearing coastlines, longer droughts and other strains on water quantity and quality, and increasingly frequent and severe storms and wildfires," the mayors told EPA chief Scott Pruitt in a letter, submitted as a formal comment on the agency's proposal.

Electricity production accounted for about 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. during 2015, the largest share of any source, according to EPA.

The agency finalized the Clean Power Plan standards in 2015.

Established under the Clean Air Act, the plan set carbon emissions reduction targets for states, with the aim of reducing emissions in the U.S. electricity sector 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. 

Soon after the plan was enacted, 150 entities, including 27 states, along with electric co-ops and trade associations, mounted legal challenges against it. Among the opposed states was Oklahoma, where Pruitt was then serving as state attorney general. In 2016, he referred to the Clean Power Plan as a form of federal "coercion and commandeering.”

The legal wrangling eventually reached the Supreme Court, which temporarily blocked the plan from taking effect.

Then, last March, President Trump issued an executive order calling on EPA to review the plan, setting the stage for the proposed repeal.

EPA has three "listening sessions" planned for the coming weeks on the Clean Power Plan repeal proposal. The first is scheduled for Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri.

The agency is accepting public comment on the proposal until April 26.

Eliminating the plan could save up to $33 billion in estimated compliance costs, EPA says. But, in their letter, the mayors highlight research that suggests conditions associated with climate change, like sea level rise, extreme weather and flooding could lead to billions of dollars in property damage and other costs.

The mayors also note that the legal authority cities have only extends as far as states and the federal government allow, and that local efforts to address climate change are sensitive to national policies that shape energy markets and steer state actions. They added: "We would benefit from the support and certainty that a federal framework for reducing the power sector’s greenhouse gas emissions could provide."

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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