Effects of Rescinding the Clean Power Plan
The stay and possible rescission of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) threatens not only the United States’ ability to comply with its emission reduction pledge under the Paris Agreement, but also to protect the physical and economic well-being of its citizens.
An economy-wide effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is necessary to meet the U.S. pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28% below the 2005 level by 2025, or equivalently, a reduction of between 1,737 and 1,870 MMt CO2e. About 47% of these reductions are expected to come from the electricity sector, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution (the electric power sector accounted for 37% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015). EPA projected that the CPP would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, amounting to 870 million tons less carbon pollution, or the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road for a year.
By reducing emissions, the CPP would have contributed to the protection of human health. The American Lung Association released a joint declaration of health professionals highlighting the urgent need to address climate change in the name of public health. According to the Climate and Health Assessment published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, rising temperatures will lead to an increase in heat-related deaths and illnesses, as well as elevated risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illness. Increased flooding exposes communities to negative health impacts during and after events, and higher water temperatures can increase exposure and risk of waterborne illness. A changing climate can also allow disease-carrying pests such as ticks and mosquitoes to spread into areas previously unsuitable for them.
The CPP would have also had the co-benefit of reducing conventional air pollutants. EPA projected that by 2030, the Plan would have reduced sulfur dioxide by 90% and nitrogen oxides by 72% from 2005 levels, preventing up to 90,000 asthma attacks, 1,700 heart attacks, 3,600 premature deaths, and 300,000 missed school or work days each year. As a result, EPA estimated that through solely non-greenhouse gas air pollutants, the health benefits returned would be $4 for every dollar spent implementing the plan.
Beyond consequences to human health, the impacts of rescinding the CPP would be substantial and wide-ranging. Warmer global temperatures generated by increased emissions will contribute to net changes to agricultural productivity, property damage from increased flood risk, and changes in energy system costs, such as reduced costs for heating and increased costs for air conditioning. Taking these consequences into account, EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis for the CPP projected that the social cost of each short ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided as a result of the CPP would have been between $12-$120 in 2020 (2011$), with increasing costs over time. Based on these estimates, EPA projected that the nationwide economic benefit of CO2 reductions from the CPP would have been between $10.4 and $104.4 billion (2011$) annually by 2030.
Research suggests that the CPP would have not only generated economic savings by avoiding costly climate and health consequences, but also by lowering electricity prices. If the CPP had been fully implemented, by 2030 national electricity bills would have been roughly 8% lower than without the Plan, or $8 less per month on average. The CPP would have also created and sustained jobs such as those relating to the manufacturing of energy efficient appliances, the construction of efficient buildings and the weatherization of existing ones, the installation of efficient technologies, and the design and improvement of energy management systems. In its Regulatory Impact Analysis, EPA predicted that employment impacts from demand-side energy efficiency programs in 2030 would have ranged from approximately 52,000 to 83,000, which would have more than offset any job losses from the electricity, coal, and natural gas sectors (which were expected to decrease by 30,900-33,700 jobs in 2030).
Based on EPA’s analysis, the annual incremental compliance cost for final emission guidelines would have ranged from $5.1 to $8.4 billion in 2030, while monetized benefits would have ranged from $34 to $54 billion (2011$). Thus, EPA concluded that the benefits of the CPP would have significantly outweighed the costs.