In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Clean Power Plan as the first-ever set of national standards that aims to address the carbon pollution power plants generate. This Clean Power Plan was never implemented as the United States Supreme Court blocked it in 2016.
Almost half of all states also believed that the Clean Power Plan was an illegal attempt to reorganize the country’s energy grid and sued the agency for it. Texas, the country's largest energy-producing and consuming state, was at the forefront of this fight against the Clean Power Plan.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has given a final judgment regarding the plan and finally shut down any attempt that EPA might make to bring back the Clean Power Plan. This decision echoes the 2015 statement of Mike Nasi, an attorney representing the Balanced Energy for Texas industry group, that the “rule vastly exceeds their [EPA] statutory authority… they will never be able to enforce the proposal as written.”
This article dives into the stand of Texas, specifically of Balanced Energy for Texas coalition, regarding the EPA Clean Power Plan and how the SCOTUS’ decision is a victory for Texas and the said group.
In August 2015, the finalized EPA Clean Power Plan was released with guidelines for reducing carbon emissions among power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. One of its goals is to reduce the reliance on coal for electricity generation from 38% in 2014 to 27% by 2030. The agency believes that this Clean Power Plan is the answer to the growing consequences of climate change.
However, the Clean Power Plan forces coal-based electricity generators to shift their coal generation to solar, wind, and gas production. The Environmental Protection Agency required the states to submit their implementation plans by September 2016, just a year and a month after they released the Clean Power Plan, and to implement their strategies by 2022.
EPA Clean Power Plan uses Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to determine the best system of emissions reduction (BSER) and claims that the Act gives them direct authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants. Thus, the agency has established individual statewide carbon emission limits for fossil fuel plants in 47 states.
At first glance, the Clean Power Plan sounds like an excellent plan to battle carbon emissions and climate change. However, Texas, which reductions would be greater than 19 other states combined despite having a low carbon emission rate, perceived the plan as a threat to the state’s electric grid.
Texas has been meeting the country’s and its own demands for electricity by relying on a diverse mix of its natural resources, such as coal, natural gas, and wind generation. Renewable resources and the use of innovative technologies in Texas are also included in its diverse energy portfolio allowing the state to lower its electricity prices.
The state boasts of its reliable and affordable electricity as an essential resource for its growing economy. With its own power grid, Texas is also proud of having the most robust electric generation and transmission in the country. Therefore, the announcement of the EPA Clean Power Plan did not sit well with many state leaders and industry groups, including the Balanced Energy for Texas coalition.
The Balanced Energy for Texas is a statewide coalition of energy consumers, producers, and providers committed to supporting policies to preserve and promote the state’s role in energy and economic development. This industry group advocates for the adoption of sensible policies that maximize the use of the state’s diverse and affordable energy portfolio.
As for the Clean Power Plan, Balanced Energy for Texas believes that it would only increase electricity prices and threaten the reliance on the electric grid, which would ultimately pose a threat to the state’s economic growth.
Back in 2015, when the Clean Power Plan was finalized and published, Mike Nasi, the coalition's representative, was convinced that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority with the Clean Power Plan and that the agency would never be able to enforce the rule. Almost seven years later, Nasi’s statement came true with the decision of the Supreme Court to finally strike down the CPP and limit EPA’s authority in reducing emissions.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on June 30, 2022, that the EPA Clean Power Plan exceeded the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. This decision also shuts down any other plan the agency has to gain control over the carbon emissions of power plants.
For Texas, especially the Balanced Energy for Texas coalition, who actively fought against the Clean Power Plan since it was published in 2015, this Supreme Court decision is a sure win for what they stand for. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office praised the ruling and stated that it is a significant victory for the state’s energy independence, efficiency, and economy.
Although the ruling did not meet all the expectations that anti-Clean Power Plan groups have, they lauded the Supreme Court for making it more challenging for the Environmental Protection Agency to order major environmental changes without the approval of Congress.