New plan aims to reduce emissions from power plants

Powers plants will carry a heavy burden under the Environment Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, said University of Tennessee Baker Fellow Mary English.

Powers plants will carry a heavy burden under the Environment Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, said University of Tennessee Baker Fellow Mary English.

On Tuesday, English gave a presentation for the Clearing the Air workshop at the Howard Baker Jr. Center the ways in which the Clean Power Plan will reduce fossil fuels created by power plants.

“The interagency working groups would take into account other factors such as cost, what mix of electricity sources exist, what are the opportunities for carbon dioxide emissions for each state,” Baker explained.

English explained 32 percent of carbon emissions in the U.S. come from electricity production. The Clean Power Plan is looking for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases produced from these plants by 2030.

“In the U.S., carbon dioxide is a very dominant greenhouse gas but that is not true globally,” English said. “Globally, you find more methane caused by enteric fermentation…it means farting and burping.”

Under the Clean Power Act, states will be charged with reducing greenhouse gases created produced by power plants. They are setting goals for each state, except for Vermont, based on a “best system of emissions reduction,” or BSER.

English told her audience that coal fired plants are the most commonly used means to create electricity. In turn, “coal states,” like Wyoming and Pennsylvania, will be the most widely affected, economically.

“Coal powered plants have the highest Carbon Dioxide emissions per kilowatt-hour, so they are the target of the Clean Power Plan,” English said.

The reduction goals will vary greatly from state to state. A 25 to 50 percent reduction is expected in most states.

“In terms of the state specific emissions goals, the idea is to have a 30 percent reduction in emissions from power plants by 2030…but each state will have a different target,” Baker said.

Tennessee is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 39 percent under the plan.

Baker pointed out that states could choose to put the burden of carbon reduction on the utility or take the burden on themselves. States can also join unions or teams to achieve reduction goals together.

Challenges will be proposed in opposition to the Clean Power Plan, but English is confident the decree will hold.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse emissions on three separate occasions,” English said.

The College of Communication and Information Department of Journalism and Electronic Media, the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists and the Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy sponsored the workshop.

Edited by Maggie Jones