Through detailed legal and economic analysis coupled with high-level stakeholder engagement, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions identifies cost-effective options for using the Clean Air Act to protect public health and encourage deployment of innovative technologies. Since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Nicholas Institute researchers have focused on identifying efficient, environmentally effective options for regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the act.
In 2009, the Nicholas Institute began holding stakeholder workshops to respond to outstanding legal questions presented by the broad statutory language of the act and its use to regulate a sector responsible for 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. Out of these workshops came roughly two dozen analyses of policy options and their risks and rewards under the law. One of the first—Avoiding The Glorious Mess: A Sensible Approach to Climate Change and the Clean Air Act—suggested that use of section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act could allow the EPA to design a flexible, cost-effective emissions reduction program. This was ultimately the statutory provision that the EPA used in 2014-2015 to design the Clean Power Plan, which set carbon dioxide emission guidelines for existing coal and natural gas power plants. Under new leadership in 2019, the EPA rescinded the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule.
Work by the Nicholas Institute focuses on key choices states will face when implementing federal climate policy; implications of other changes in the electricity sector for compliance with federal climate policy; and opportunities and challenges for future application of the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.