New Study: “Administration’s Clean Energy Plan May Lead to More Air Pollution, Carbon Emissions”

Washington, DC January 15, 2019 – A new study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters predicts that the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at coal-fired power plants, will lead instead to an increase in emissions at 28 percent of coal plants and in 18 states plus Washington, DC. That increase is due to a phenomenon called “emissions rebound,” raising questions about the rule’s standing under the Clean Air Act. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions are also projected to increase in as many as 20 states plus DC under ACE.

The study is called “The Affordable Clean Energy Rule and the Impact of Emissions Rebound on Carbon Dioxide and Criteria Air Pollutant Emissions.

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Resources for the Future’s (RFF) Dallas Burtraw is one of several leading researchers involved in the study, in addition to experts from Harvard, Boston University, and Syracuse.

According to Dr. Burtraw, “Our study finds that the administration’s new power plant controls will allow more harmful air pollution and less carbon reduction than would be produced under the Obama-era Clean Power Plan it is intended to replace.

“The reason for the increased emissions is a phenomenon called ‘emissions rebound’ that can inadvertently lead affected power plants to emit greater levels of harmful pollution,” Dr. Burtraw added.

ACE is the proposed replacement for the Clean Power Plan (CPP). ACE represents a narrow, source-based approach to carbon standards that focuses on efficiency improvements at individual power plants. The CPP represents a flexible, systems-based approach that provides more avenues for plants to achieve necessary emissions reductions including energy efficiency, renewable energy, fuel switching, and emissions trading.

Dr. Burtraw and RFF Research Assistant Amelia Keyes, another study author, today posted a new blog on the study to RFF’s site titled “The ACE Rule May Be Vulnerable.” In it, the authors note, “The possibility that ACE could increase CO2 emissions at almost a third of the plants whose emissions it aims to reduce raises important questions about the validity of the regulation under the Clean Air Act.”

A fact sheet available here outlines the study and key findings as well as state impacts, the full list of authors, public comments on ACE by the authors to EPA.