Who Got What They Wanted in the Clean Power Plan

Many groups argued for revisions to the Obama administration's carbon regulations before they were finalized. Who won?

How the Clean Power Plan evolved
The graphics below detail the changes from the proposed Clean Power Plan to its final version.

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After more than a year of public hearings, stakeholder meetings and an unsuccessful pre-emptive court challenge, the Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of the Clean Power Plan this week. The regulations seek to curb carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 and are among the country’s most aggressive efforts to curb climate change.

The rules attracted more than 4.3 million comments to the EPA, the most in the agency’s history. Reactions were mixed. Public health advocates, clean energy businesses, faith-based groups and environmental groups applauded the rules as a step in the right direction to tackle climate change. Politicians from coal country, some utilities and the coal industry, however, decried the rule, saying it was illegal and would cost thousands of jobs.

These groups proposed changes to the regulations on several fronts—including the timeline for compliance, how state targets were calculated and what assumptions could be made about future electricity generation.

Not everyone agreed on the the changes. Even within the environmental groups, there were differences in opinion about the technical details of the plan. The same is true of the coal interests.

The power sector was divided over the changes they wanted to see in the final rule. Those that  already transitioned to natural gas-fired plants and have a significant capacity in hydroelectric power and renewables were generally supportive of the plan. Others still dependent on coal mostly opposed it.   

The graphic below breaks down the special interest groups into two broad categories—those that were largely supportive of the plan and those that weren’t. Here’s what each side wanted and what they ultimately got.

How the Clean Power Plan evolved from proposed rule to final rule.

The final version of the Clean Power Plan significantly changes how state targets are calculated. It eliminates assumptions related to energy efficiency and rejiggers the other assumptions. Here’s a breakdown of how the EPA’s algorithm to calculate state goals has changed.

The building blocks of the EPA's Clean Power Plan