January 18, 2019

First Study Of ACE Emission Impacts Finds 18 States Could See More GHGs ($)

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

A new article in InsideEPA explains that a new peer-reviewed study of the greenhouse gas (GHG) and other emission effects of EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) proposal finds the policy would have the perverse outcome of boosting GHGs in 18 states and the District of Columbia by causing almost one-third of existing coal plants to run more often. The January 15 paper is the first to quantify projected GHG and conventional pollution effects from ACE, and it is raising legal questions about the validity of the Trump administration's approach while also providing ammunition to its opponents.

The study will be published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, and was co-written by researchers from Resources For the Future (RFF), Syracuse University and Harvard University's Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment.

Kate Konschnik, director of the Climate & Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute, tells Inside EPA that the study's results “suggest three legal vulnerabilities for the ACE rule and the intertwined decision to rescind the CPP [Clean Power Plan]. First, a court may find EPA was arbitrary and capricious to ignore the likely emissions rebound effect of refurbishing old uncontrolled coal units and exempting them from new source review,” which is a separate permit program requiring installation of modern pollution controls when facilities are upgraded. “That hole in EPA’s reasoning was already there, but this paper quantifies the failure in diminished air quality,” she says.

Additionally, the fact that EPA’s “abrupt policy change results in a climate rule that does virtually nothing to mitigate GHGs and increases emissions relative to the CPP might lead the court to find EPA’s actions arbitrary and capricious,” she says. Last, she argues that the paper “could provide the basis for [section] 126 petitions for downwind states facing a likely increase in [national ambient air quality standard] NAAQS pollutants from refurbished coal units.”