On Monday, President Obama will unveil the final version of the centerpiece of his climate legacy, the Clean Power Plan. The rule is designed to speed up the retirement of the nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants—the most carbon-intensive way of creating electricity—and could more than double the rate of coal plant closures by 2040.
In a video preview of the new rule, Obama called the Clean Power Plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.” While that statement may be true, it’s not saying a whole heck of a lot.
As I wrote last year when the rule was initially announced, many states are already well on their way to achieving the required reductions, thanks in part to a recent boom in cheap natural gas and the Obama administration’s choice of 2005 as the basis year for cuts, which was close to America’s all-time peak in carbon emissions. Obama’s plan is significant, but it’s not bold.
A previous version of the targets, announced last year, would have required states to begin implementing changes to their power-producing mix in 2020. The final rule, to be announced Monday, gives states and utilities an extra two years, until 2022. The targets will vary by state, depending on their current energy mix, and states will have flexible ways of achieving emissions reductions, including an option to join an interstate cap-and-trade scheme.