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Understanding the Clean Power Plan, a student publication
In August 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a rule under the Clean Air Act (CAA) that details guidelines for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel-fired electricity generating units (EGUs), commonly referred to as power plants. According to the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to determine the “best system of emission reductions” (BSER) for any air pollutant they regulate, which includes carbon dioxide. In the CPP, the EPA described three “building blocks” that make up the BSER in order for states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The EPA set emission targets for each state based on a realistic, regionally-adjusted combination of the three building blocks. In order to comply with the CPP, states are required to develop a long-term plan for attaining their targets through incremental changes to their EGUs or clean energy development. States are encouraged to employ all three building blocks, however they may use any combination of measures, including those outside of the defined building blocks, so long as their plan demonstrates CO2 emission reductions as a state, either by rate (tons per MWh generated electricity) or total mass of CO2 (i.e., rate-base or mass-based respectively). Each state has the freedom to choose the unit of measurement for their emission reduction plan and said plan must be approved by the EPA. Compared to national 2005 levels, the CPP should result in a 32% reduction in the power sectors emissions by 2030.