Power Plant Regulations

The Biden administration set a goal of creating a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. To achieve those targets, the administration is taking a whole-of-government approach. EPA has a key role in the regulatory effort for the power sector. Below is a compilation of our legal analyses, podcasts, and tracker posts about the Biden administration’s efforts to advance these rules, including rebuilding the regulations that the Trump administration rolled back.

greenhouse gas emissions
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Regulatory Tracker The US has not yet enacted limits for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Our Regulatory Tracker post on GHG emissions regulation for existing power plants gives the background and timeline of events starting with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule and the Biden administration’s legal challenges to propose new regulations. Our post on regulation of GHG emissions for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants is here.

Analysis Supreme Court Embraces the Major Questions Doctrine as Limiting but Leaving the Door Open for Power Sector GHG Regulations. Carrie Jenks, Hannah Oakes, and Sara Dewey describe how this case reached the Court in the first place, implications of the use of the major questions doctrine, and EPA’s path forward. (July 1, 2022)

Podcast West Virginia v. EPA, What’s Next? Our founding director Professor Jody Freeman and Professor Richard Lazarus discuss the Supreme Court case West Virginia v. EPA. The Court’s decision in this case will address the scope of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, potentially impacting future EPA rules. (March 31, 2022)

Opinion/Guest Essay Jody wrote Will the Supreme Court Frustrate Efforts to Slow Climate Change? for the New York Times. (February 26, 2022)

Podcast Our executive director Carrie Jenks spoke with expert Kevin Poloncarz about the appeals to the Supreme Court of the D.C. Circuit decision to vacate the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule. (September 8, 2021)

White Paper and Podcast “EPA’s House of Cards: the Affordable Clean Energy Rule” (October 22, 2019) analyzes the risky legal strategy EPA used to repeal the Clean Power Plan and craft the ACE rule. The authors of the paper, our former executive director Joe Goffman and staff attorney Caitlin McCoy, discussed their findings in an episode of our podcast. They also discussed the litigation challenging the repeal and new rule, with updates including petitioners’ motion to hold the case in abeyance pending EPA’s issuing the final New Source Review rule, which was initially included in the ACE proposal. (November 19, 2019)

Podcast Joe also spoke with public health expert Kathy Fallon Lambert about the expected emissions increases under the Affordable Clean Energy Rule on an episode of our podcast (October 8, 2019)

Mercury and air toxics standards (mats)
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Regulatory Tracker Our MATS post tracks the timeline of events from the Obama administration’s publication of the rule and determination that it was “appropriate and necessary” to the Trump administration’s reversal of that determination to the Biden administration’s suspension of the Trump reversal and proposal for mercury regulation.

Legal Analysis Student Anna Todd (JD 2023) looks at EPA’s Authority to Regulate Hazardous Air Pollutants from Power Plants: the Appropriate and Necessary Finding. (March 9, 2022)

Backgrounder This post provides background on EPA’s pending final rule withdrawing the appropriate and necessary finding that underpins the MATS and offers key points to look for in the final rule. (April 16, 2020)

Legal Analysis Joe Goffman examined the Trump administration’s strategy to roll back MATS, then focused on the proposal to rescind the supplemental appropriate and necessary finding. (March 14, 2019)

Timeline Joe Goffman wrote a timeline of MATS regulatory actions and litigation. (March 13, 2019)

Podcast Public health expert Kathy Fallon Lambert spoke with Joe Goffman about studies highlighting the potential impact of two Trump EPA proposals – withdrawing the “appropriate and necessary” foundation of MATS and replacing the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. (March 7, 2019)

Podcast Janet McCabe and Joe Goffman led the team that developed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards under the Obama administration. Hear them discuss the effects of the Trump administration proposal to remove the legal foundation of the rule. (February, 2019)

Legal Analyses Joe examined the expected Trump proposal to rescind or revise a 2016 “supplemental finding” that, after considering the cost of regulation, it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate power plant hazardous air pollutants. (December 21, 2018). This was published on the heels of Joe’s Preview: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) – EPA Review. (December 17, 2018)

Legal Analysis In response to the Trump administration’s announcement that it would be reviewing the pollution control requirements of MATS as well as the appropriate and necessary finding, Joe wrote an extensive background of the rule and analysis of the stakes of these reviews. (September 28, 2018)

new source review
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Regulatory Tracker Our New Source Review Regulatory Tracker post details the history of the rule, why it’s important, and a timeline of events.

White Paper In this analysis we discussed the Trump EPA’s changes to the New Source Review program and what effects these changes would have on air quality and public health. (October 31, 2019)

coal ash rule
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Regulatory Tracker Our Coal Ash post details the history of the rule, why it’s important, and a timeline of events.

Legal Analysis In her paper The Coal Ash Rule Trilogy Spanning Obama, Trump, and the D.C. Circuit, HLS student Katherine Clements (JD 2021) reviews three coal ash rules—the 2015 Rule, the 2018 Amendments, and the 2019 Proposed Rule—specifically comparing each rule’s coal ash impoundment closure initiation deadlines, alternative closure extensions, and consideration of cost. Comparing these three elements revealed the administrations’ differing regulatory priorities, and also examined the impact of the court’s decision. (January 28, 2020)

2023 Good neighbor plan

Read our legal analysis of this implementation plan for 2015 Ozone NAAQS

Cross-state air pollution rule (CSAPR)

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.

Once in always in guidance for Major Sources under the Clean Air Act

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.

Greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standards for Power Plants

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter and Ozone

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.

Power Plant Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction Rule

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.

Power Plant Effluent Limits

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.

regional haze rule

Read our Regulatory Tracker post about this rule.