A bevy of sixteen lawyers representing the 27 states and power interests which are suing to overturn the Clean Power Plan began their arguments Tuesday in Washington.
All ten justices of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are hearing the case, rather than the usual three-judge panel, a signal of its importance to industry, the environment and international relations. The Clean Power Plan is a cornerstone of President Obama’s climate change initiative, and key to the United Nations climate agreement. Its goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32% from 2005 levels over the next 15 years.
The 27 states challenging the plan say it’s unconstitutional, while 18 others have joined the proceedings in support of its aims. An eventual decision from this appeals court is expected to be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, so it may be 2018 or later before a final outcome.
If it is upheld, the Clean Power Plan is expected to bring:
- A projected 30 percent reduction in carbon from the electric power sector, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030
- More new natural gas-fired power plants
- More coal power plant retirements
- More wind and solar additions
- A slight electricity price increase for a few years
- The loss of coal-related jobs
- New jobs in the renewables sector
Economists are quick to point out that many of changes we’ll see under the Clean Power Plan in the coming decades – the addition of natural gas power plants, wind and solar; the retirement of coal power plants – are already underway due to market forces. In fact, carbon emissions from the electric power sector have already dropped 21 percent from their peak in 2007, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Why?
See our full Inside Energy report and take a look at the cost of generating electricity from each power source.