The Clean Power Plan (CPP) are federal standards under the Clean Air Act designed to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. Existing coal and gas-fired power plants are targeted as the single largest source of carbon emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the CPP this August after addressing public comments, including several modifications requested by Wisconsin. The CPP speeds up the transition away from dirty coal that many states are already engaged in like Wisconsin, where utilities will retire 16% of current coal capacity in the near future. However, coal makes up 62% of WI electricity generation, so the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) is concerned that there will be considerable effort and cost to comply within fifteen years. Supporters of the CPP cite the cost savings from national security, to public health, recovery from severe climate events, food security and energy stability. Some states, like California and New York, are using the transition to clean energy to fuel their economies.
The CPP provides each state with flexibility as to how to meet the goal. Wisconsin can submit a customized state plan, a multistate plan or a federal implementation plan. However, Wisconsin’s attorney general has joined 23 states in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the CPP. With a September 2016 deadline to make the initial submission of a state compliance plan- the route that affords the most flexibility, many are looking to move ahead to preserve that option.
Ellen Nowak, Chair of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, and Susan Hedman, Regional Administrator for US EPA Region 5, that includes Wisconsin, spoke about the CPP at a Customers First Coalition POWER meeting in Madison in October. Commissioner Nowak expressed concern about the CPP’s impact on energy rates and that 17% of Wisconsin’s workforce is in manufacturing which is heavily coal dependent. Dr. Headman explained the compliance routes for Wisconsin in detail. Her greater perspective: “We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last gneration that can do something about it”. For more information EPA, Dr. Hedman’s presentation and