What's in a Target?

What's in a Target?

How the final Clean Power Plan uses unreasonable renewable energy assumptions to increase the stringency of state emissions requirements.

Last August, President Obama released EPA’s Final Clean Power Plan Rule in a high profile ceremony at the White House. The Final Rule clocked in at a little over 3,000 pages of regulatory text and supporting documents, and it achieves the impressive feat of being even more complex and confusing than the Proposed Rule issued by EPA in the summer of 2014.

The sequel is completely different than the original, and there is much left that we still need to digest and understand. But suffice it to say, the regulation has changed so dramatically that states, utilities, and other affected stakeholders have in many ways been forced back to square one in their review and analysis of the rule and its implications. Moreover, because the major changes to the CPP’s final design were not contemplated in the Proposed Rule, stakeholders have been left with no opportunity to provide EPA constructive feedback on these implications.

In a nutshell, EPA has employed an entirely new structure and set of assumptions from which it derives individual state requirements. The end result overall is a more stringent regulation that the Agency blithely claims will be easier and cheaper for states to comply with. To cite just one example, EPA tightened the 2030 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rate reduction requirement for North Dakota from 11% in the Proposed Rule to 45% in the Final Rule, the third steepest rate reduction in the country. With a straight face, the Agency’s “Fact Sheet” goes on to describe this new target as such:

“North Dakota’s 2030 goal is 1,305 pounds per megawatt-hour. That’s on the high end of this range, meaning North Dakota has one of the least stringent state goals, compared to other state goals in the final Clean Power Plan.” [Emphasis added.]

Compare this to the description of California’s target. EPA loosened the state’s CO2 rate reduction requirement from 23% in the Proposed Rule to 14% in the final, and agency fact sheets project that California will actually be allowed to increase its emissions rate under the rule (and/or sell emissions credits to other states). Nonetheless, EPA suggests this will be a heavy lift for the Golden State:

“California’s 2030 goal is 828 pounds per megawatt-hour. That’s on the low end of this range, meaning California has one of the more stringent state goals, compared to other state goals in the final Clean Power Plan.” [Emphasis added.]

Welcome to the world of EPA Fuzzy Math, where up is down and down is up. Where do these goals come from, and how did EPA pull this off? Well, it’s complicated. But it’s based on layer upon layer of shaky assumptions, outright errors, and uneven treatment of states that we hope to explain in this analysis.