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EPA Formally Ask Stakeholders How to Change the Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a formal proposal on Monday asking stakeholders how they would change the Clean Power Plan that would require industry to reduce CO2 emissions by 32% by 2030. This is the Trump administration’s first official act to find an alternative to that rule that is now held up in the courts.

In October, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gave notice that his agency would repeal the Clean Power Plan. A key argument that Pruitt and his supporters are making is that the agency does not have the power the regulate industry “outside the fence” and that it can only do so “inside the fence.” That means EPA can demand manufacturers and chemical makers improve their own processes and efficiencies but that it cannot force the wholesale retirement of coal units or have companies trade carbon credits with each other to reduce emissions.

“Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress,” Pruitt continued,” Pruitt said in a statement

“The new approach should lower emissions, preserve America’s energy advantage, and respect the boundaries of the Clean Air Act,” Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, added in a statement.

Right now the Clean Power Plan is caught up in a federal appeals court after the US Supreme Court issued a stay in January 2016. It is thought that the the DC Court of Appeals will eventually approve the Obama plan, given that it has done so already. But its ultimate fate is less than certain in the High Court.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has already said that the so-called “endangerment finding” is lawful — the ruling that gives the EPA the right to regulate CO2 as an emission under the Clean Air Act. So it does not seem possible that EPA can just scrap the Clean Power Plan altogether despite Pruitt’s use of the word “repeal.” But Pruitt and his EPA can try to rewrite it.

Critics of Pruitt say that EPA has a duty to protect the public from harmful emissions. And the Clean Power Plan, as written, gives states several options to comply.

“This is just another ‘repeal and replace’ scam. Everyone knows President Trump and Scott Pruitt want to gut the Clean Power Plan, taking our best fire truck away from a blazing fire,” David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement

“They should be strengthening, not killing, this commonsense strategy to curb the power plant carbon pollution fueling dangerous climate change. A weaker replacement of the Clean Power Plan is a non-starter. Americans—who depend on EPA to protect their health and climate—deserve real solutions, not scams,” he added. 

What will be the effect of these moves by the Trump administration on not just corporate America but also on the global community? The short answer is that the both entities are moving forward with carbon-friendly policies, reasoning that markets are demanding action and that planet requires them.

Just yesterday, for instance, Schneider Electric joined RE100 to go 100% renewable by 2030. There are now 118 in all that have made similar pledges, including AB InBev, LEGO and CitiGroup.

RE100 says that 11 of its members have written to EU Energy Ministers to include a target of at least 35% renewable energy by 2030, and support for corporate Power Purchase Agreements. Those contracts allow companies to buy the output from renewable energy developers at fixed prices over a set number of years, which provides certainty to all sides while increasing green energy penetration.

Just yesterday, EU ministers said that they would try to hit 27% by 2030. That is up from 20% by 2020, although short of the 30% mark that those companies had wanted.

Meantime, 225 investors with $26 trillion in assets under management have combined their financial might under the banner of Climate Action 100+. Their message: Companies that focus on the so-called triple bottom line — economics, environment and social — are outperforming other broader indices and they are also demonstrating that they are living their missions and ingraining their brands among their customers.

Among the companies that they hope to persuade are China Petroleum & Chemical Co., Gazprom and Exxon Mobil Corp., which just yesterday said that it will give its shareholders a sharper look inside of its strategy to fight climate change. Calpers said via a telephone conference that companies are being asked to cut their CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

Much of the business community is moving forward with eco-friendly policies, although the pace of their progress varies depending on their corporate missions. That evolution will continue, given that market forces are demanding it and technologies are allowing it. Public policy, ultimately, will follow suit.

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