During a speech at Georgetown University on June 25, 2013, President Obama unveiled his climate change action plan. Not surprisingly, the plan seeks to increase reliance on renewable energy and decrease consumption of fossil fuels. It further directs USEPA to finalize the much anticipated regulation of energy generating units (EGUs) before the end of the President’s term. This is a large request.
USEPA has already started the process of regulating the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), but its progress has been delayed multiple times. On April 13, 2012, USEPA took its first stab in its proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions For New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units under CAA §111(b). (77 Fed. Reg. 22,392). This proposed rule is the result of a settlement agreement USEPA entered into in 2010 with several states and environmental groups. The agreement required USEPA to finalize these proposed standards and emission guidelines for GHGs by May 2012, which did not happen. As a result, environmental groups informed USEPA of their intent to sue, but decided to hold off until the Obama administration announced its climate change action plan.
As part of the plan, in a Presidential Memorandum, Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards, the President directed USEPA to issue a revised proposal for new EGUs by September 20, 2013 and to issue a final rule for these sources as soon as possible thereafter. This means that the USEPA’s proposed standards will see some changes. The memorandum also addressed standards for existing EGUs and directed USEPA to issue proposed guidelines for such sources by June 1, 2014 and finalize them a year later. Additionally, states will have until June 30, 2016 to implement plans for regulating existing sources.
It is clear that the President intends to make every effort to have regulations in place for new and existing EGUs prior to the end of his stay in the White House. Considering USEPA’s history of failing to meet deadlines for regulating GHG emissions, it will be interesting to see how the agency will deal with this ambitious plan in addition to struggling with employee’s furrowed days, a reduced operating budget and the lack of a confirmed Administrator. September 20, 2013 is only a few short months away…