skip to main content | skip to footer
North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Guest - Secretary van der Vaart's Statement on Federal Clean Power Plan - Environmentally Speaking

Guest

Blogs »
Secretary van der Vaart's Statement on Federal Clean Power Plan

Secretary van der Vaart released the following statement on the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan rule designed to fundamentally change the way Americans make and consume electricity:

“Although the final rule includes some changes made in response to the several million comments that were filed on the draft rule, DENR’s initial review reveals that the rule remains legally flawed. The final rule does not correct the legal frailty that DENR and many leading environmental groups identified in the EPA’s interpretation of this section of the federal Clean Air Act. In addition to the legal flaws, the EPA’s nationwide approach fails to consider the unique nature of each state’s energy generating system and does not take into account either the recent measures to reduce emissions or the advancements made in renewable energy. The EPA’s rule will adversely impact low-income communities by needlessly increasing electricity prices and threatening job creation by limiting manufacturing growth. The rule could also jeopardize North Carolina’s recent success in protecting and rapidly improving its air quality.”

Background 

DENR, along with many leading environmental groups, have consistently maintained that the federal EPA cannot legally use section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. North Carolina agrees with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Earthjustice that, “the text of §111(d)(1)(A) makes clear that EPA may not set standards for a pollutant that is ‘emitted from a source category which is regulated under section 112’ or included on the §112(b) list of hazardous air pollutants.” 

Despite this prohibition, the EPA designed a final rule that, instead of being based on fundamental engineering principles, was created to achieve a predetermined emission reduction goal. To achieve this predetermined goal, the EPA relied on several building blocks that the EPA stated would: 1) reduce carbon emissions through improving heat rates at remaining coal-fired power plants, 2) increase combustion of natural gas and 3) replace coal fired power with solar and wind. While the EPA claims the three building blocks provide states with flexibility to meet the federal requirements, the flexibility is illusory. The assumptions the EPA made in developing the state requirements are so impractical they prevent flexibility.

The EPA compounded these errors by applying these building blocks nationwide without taking into account each state’s unique energy generating system. The Clean Air Act, properly applied, does not require a predetermined emission reduction and does require the state to consider costs. As such, a state plan based on sound and prudent application of engineering principles and the law to each coal-fired unit, will result in cost-effective emission reductions that improve energy efficiency, protect low-income communities, and encourage manufacturing growth and job creation.

The final rule also encourages trading as a means to satisfy section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. North Carolina agrees with these same special interest environmental groups that trading is not permitted under Section 111(d).  These groups noted, “EPA’s convoluted interpretation of §§111(a) and (d)(1) [a trading program] leads to a topsy-turvy outcome where ‘reduction’ can actually mean ‘increase.’” These groups also noted that courts have “previously rebuffed EPA’s efforts to authorize pollution trading under §111. In ASARCO, Inc., v. EPA, 578 F.2d 319 (D.C. Cir. 1978), the Court rejected even a limited emission trading scheme, whereby existing plants could avoid §111 standards when making changes so long as offsetting emission reductions could be identified elsewhere at the same plant site.”

North Carolina is on-track to achieve President Obama’s stated goal of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 from a 2005 baseline date without federal intrusion and will achieve this goal while keeping energy costs low. However, the final rule uses a 2012 baseline, which prohibits North Carolina from receiving credit for the reductions made between 2005 and 2012. As such, North Carolina’s nearly $3 billion of investments made under the Clean Smokestacks Act are ignored. North Carolina will be penalized for passing the Clean Smokestacks Act instead of being rewarded for reducing air pollution earlier than required by federal law.

DENR will continue to review the 2,700 page final rule to determine its potential impact on North Carolina. The administration plans to challenge the final rule in court.      

25842703 FEEDBACK

Your input is valuable to us. Please send us your feedback.

What type of feedback would you like to send?*

Ask a Question Report a Problem Have a Concern Make a Comment

(If you would like us to respond please include your phone or e-mail.)

Your Question has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Problem has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Concern has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Comment has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

*If you are a DENR employee with an I.T. issue, please submit a DOTS ticket.