Here’s my take on the Affordable Clean Energy Plan.
On the merits, it does almost nothing. It requires only that states impose heat rate improvement requirements on coal-fired power plants. It’s not going to meaningfully lower emissions. Administrator Wheeler has trumpeted that emissions will be 35% lower in 2030 than in 2005, but the ACE rules contribute almost nothing to that result.
While I support the policy measures in the Clean Power Plan, the CPP was always on shaky legal ground and it has been particularly so after Trump’s appointment of two members of the Supreme Court. Thus, it’s probably not accurate to attribute any backsliding from the CPP to the new ACE rule; that was going to happen regardless.
And while some pundits have suggested that the ACE rule will limit flexibility of a future Democratic administration, I’m skeptical. If there’s ever going to be a situation where a new administration can easily justify abrupt changes in policy and survive judicial review, it’s going to be the next Democratic administration.
That’s not to say the ACE rule doesn’t matter. Notwithstanding the views of those such as William Happer, the science is clear that we need big reductions in GHG emissions and we need them soon. ACE just makes more clear that we’re not going to see meaningful federal action within any reasonable understanding of the word “soon.” And however much we can applaud aggressive action by some states and cities, it would be just foolish to think that we don’t need the federal government to act.
If we want to move from Much Ado About Nothing to All’s Well That Ends Well, we have to end the Comedy of Errors that is the current Administration’s approach to climate regulation.