Brookings Now

What Brookings Scholars Are Saying about the EPA Emissions Regulation Proposal

Fred Dews

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired powerplants by 30 percent by the year 2030. The EPA has proposed giving states the flexibility to design their own implementation plans. The action comes with controversy, including about whether the agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that the law was “unambiguous” on the question: it does have that authority.

Brookings experts have weighed in on the EPA’s proposal in a number of ways:

• Philip Wallach says that the new plan “sets the scene for a long struggle that will unfold over many years and presidential administrations, and that can only be resolved with real certainty by new congressional action.”

• Mark Muro writes that “the EPA and the White House have gone all-in with bottom-up” with a “carbon scheme that recognizes the states have been innovating, places states at the center of the emissions push, and gives them the maximum amount of flexibility to limit carbon pollution.”

• Barry Rabe calls the proposed state-focused approach a “new era of climate federalism” and offers three reasons for optimism.

• Claire Langley and Timmons Roberts argue that “one of the main reasons for taking these steps is to kick-start the sluggish international negotiations on climate change” and to “[strengthen] the U.S.’s negotiating position toward an international agreement in Paris in 2015.”

• Ted Gayer and Kip Viscusi present data that the “EPA’s methodology for calculating the [climate] benefit represents a shift away from typical practice.” While $30 billion in benefits are expected globally, the U.S. benefits are in the range of $2 billion to $7 billion, they argue, for a compliance cost of around $7.3 billion.

• Warwick McKibbin, Adele Morris, and Peter Wilcoxen explain the economic consequences of a delay in U.S. climate policy, a delay brought about by the “complexity and contentiousness of [greenhouse gas] regulation.”

• William Lucy observes that “the substantive carbon emissions reduction goal seeks to keep recent momentum going rather than accelerate it. The most interesting questions are why progress in reducing carbon emissions occurred and the future prospects; and the impact on electricity costs to customers.”


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