In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    EPA -- Taking action on climate change
    During President Obama's first term, important progress was made towards curbing GHG emissions and improving air quality. In 2009, EPA determined that CO2 and other GHGs constitute a threat to the public health and welfare. This "
    endangerment finding" paved the way for EPA action to regulate these emissions. Key regulatory initiatives that followed have included increasingly stringent emissions and fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles of all types and a number of rules aimed at reducing emissions of GHGs and various toxic air pollutants from large stationary sources. Learn more about these EPA initiatives here.

    Clean Power Plan
    Then in August 2015, EPA announced the final version of the Clean Power Plan,
    the most important step yet in this country's fight against climate change. This set of rules regulates GHG emissions from existing and from new, modified, or reconstructed fossil fuel-fired power plants. When fully implemented, the CPP is expected to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

    The CPP establishes the first-ever limits on GHG emissions from power plants, the country's largest source of the carbon pollution driving climate change. The new rules will accelerate the country's transition to a clean energy future and will bring significant health benefits by reducing the pollutants that can create dangerous soot and smog. EPA projects that reducing these pollutants will avoid thousands of premature deaths and asthma attacks in 2030 and every year beyond. In addition, announcement of the strong emissions standards established the U.S. as an international leader on climate change, providing strong momentum for the UN climate negotiations in Paris in December 2015.

    Litigation Update  Following publication of the CPP in the Federal Register in October 2015, twenty-seven states and numerous industry groups filed suit to block the rule, alleging that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate carbon emissions. They asked the D.C. Circuit Court to stay the rule while their suit is pending. In January 2016, the D.C. District Court declined to suspend the rule, but in February, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to grant the states' request to freeze the CPP pending the judicial review. In May, the D.C. Circuit Court issued an order providing that the full court (rather than a three-judge panel) would review the case. The court heard oral arguments on September 27, and a decision is expected in late 2016-early 2017.

    With the CPP on hold, state compliance deadlines are no longer certain. Under the CPP, initial state plans were due in September 2016, with final state plans due two years later.

    State-specific goals
    The CPP recognizes that each state has a unique mix of power sources and different emissions-reduction opportunities -- with each state in the best position to understand these conditions. Therefore EPA has set a different goal for each state for reducing carbon emissions from its power sector. For each state, there is an Interim Goal, to be met during the years 2022-2029, and a Final Goal, to be met in 2030 and beyond.

    In setting these goals, EPA considered the types of strategies and technologies that states and utilities are already using to reduce CO2 from fossil fuel-fired power plants and determined that the Best System of Emissions Reduction (BESR) consists of three methods, or building blocks.  
         (1) Improve the efficiency (or "heat rate") of existing coal-fired power plants;
         (2) Substitute increased electricity generation from existing natural gas plants for reduced generation from coal-fired power plants;
         (3) Substitute increased electricity generation from new zero-emitting renewable energy sources for reduced generation from existing coal-fired power plants.

    Recognizing that power plants operate through broad interconnected regional grids (Western Interconnection, Eastern Interconnection, and Texas Interconnection), EPA applied the building blocks to all the coal plants and all the natural gas plants in each region to produce regional emission performance rates for each category. EPA then chose the most readily achievable rate for each category to arrive at equitable CO2 emission performance rates for the country. These CO2 emission performance rates were then applied to all the affected power plants in each state to determine the goal for each state. 

    A performance rate-based goal is measured in pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated (lb/MWh). EPA also allows states to convert their rate-based goal to an equivalent mass-based goal, measured in tons of CO2 emissions/year. (A third option is a mass-based goal that includes new fossil fuel-fired plants.) A mass-based goal would enable a state to implement a cap-and-trade program, a carbon tax, or other market-based mechanism.

    State Plans
    States are responsible for developing and implementing plans that ensure that the power plants in their state -- either individually, collectively, or in combination with other measures -- achieve the interim and final CO2 emission performance rates for their state. States were to submit initial plans by early September 2016, with final plans due by September 2018.

    States are not limited to the emission reduction measures covered in the three "building blocks."  For example, states may --
         •  design plans that incorporate energy efficiency, new and upgraded nuclear generation, or biomass generation;
         •  allow emissions trading among power plants owned by the same operator, between power companies, or across state lines;
         •  comply as individual states or as a group of states.
         •  take advantage of the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) that rewards early investment in (1) wind and solar projects and/or in (2) demand-side energy efficiency programs in historically underserved low-income communities.

    Proposed Federal Plan
    EPA has also issued a proposed federal plan that, once finalized, will apply to any state that fails to submit an approvable state plan. The federal plan is also intended to serve as a model for states to use in developing their own compliance plans. EPA has proposed two plan types for consideration -- a rate-based trading plan and a mass-based trading program -- one of which will be used in the final federal plan. EPA is scheduled to finalize the plan in summer 2016. 

    League Role -- Building Support for the Clean Power Plan
    There is much that you and your League can do to build support for, and promote compliance with, the Clean Power Plan. Review these suggestions and decide what you will do to help.


    Last updated: 11/12/2016