The 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) has a lofty goal: reduce existing power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions by over 30% by 2030—just 15 years. The first critical deadline for states is to file a plan by fall 2016, but government doesn’t turn on a dime.
Experts have identified the best-practice steps to creating a state plan. On their face, the steps appear reasonable: engage stakeholders, establish objectives and assessment methods, assess what’s already in place, analyze a range of possible compliance factors, and then conduct a “what if” analysis of those plans before writing and submitting a final plan. But even the simplest state action affecting the smallest possible stakeholder group could take months. The CPP-required action is multi-faceted and far-reaching. And we are in an election year, when political agendas can easily slow or completely halt state action.
It is critical, then, for states to begin the steps to compliance immediately.
The CPP is controversial, and some states—especially those heavily dependent on fossil fuels—will need to significantly change the way they generate energy. Although CPP opponents are pressuring states to avoid taking action until current lawsuits and legislative activities are exhausted, any delay could leave insufficient time to create a state plan. Even an extension request requires the state to have completed a significant amount of work toward its plan.
Regardless, emission controls are a part of the country’s—and the world’s—future, so states have little to lose if they start the planning process immediately. One of the first steps, then, is to reach out to stakeholders, including state regulators and energy agencies, utilities organizations and commissions, grid-related professionals, consumer advocates, and others.
Ensuring stakeholders are informed and then heard is the best course to long-term success. Likewise, it is critical for each state to understand its unique legislative and regulatory requirements. In some states, for example, a state agency may be able to formulate and file its state plan without legislative involvement. In other states, relevant agencies may have little or no authority to create or even work on the plan without legislative approval. Regardless, once the necessary facts, opinions, and theories are collected, states can then begin sorting through the myriad options for each required component of the state plan. Make no mistake, the fall 2016 deadline will require Herculean efforts for many states.