The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on October 16, 2017 its intention to repeal the Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, commonly known as the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change in the United States 32 percent by 2030 by placing limits on the largest source: coal-fired power plants. Prior to the promulgation of the Clean Power Plan in October 2015, the Supreme Court held in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are pollutants that can be regulated under the federal Clean Air Act. Two years following this 2007 decision, the EPA determined, based on a review of the scientific record, that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. This “endangerment finding” was subsequently upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. As recently as this month, a congressionally-mandated report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded that “based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”
In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change, the Clean Power Plan also would result in power plants becoming more efficient in generating electricity. In the long term, this would also reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). NOx is a major source of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay watershed through atmospheric deposition as it falls on rivers and streams, as well as directly to the Bay itself. Approximately a third of the nitrogen pollution to the Bay comes from atmospheric sources. The received wisdom is that federal air emissions standards and regulations will continue to reduce the impact of this pollution sector, but only so long as those standards are maintained and the rules are not repealed as we are seeing with the Clean Power Plan.
Members of the public have until January 16, 2018 to submit comments on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The easiest way to do so is by reviewing notice of the proposed rule here https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/11/08/2017-24216/repeal-of-carbon-pollution-emission-guidelines-for-existing-stationary-sources-electric-utility and filing a comment in the associated docket at regulations.gov. A hyperlink to the regulatory docket is found on the webpage for the proposed rule.
We can expect an intense legal battle to begin once the EPA finishes collecting comments on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan due to its importance in regulating carbon emissions and the economic interests of the regulated community. As stewards of creation we can make choices to limit our own carbon footprint, including purchasing electricity from renewable sources, making conscious decisions about the resources we consume, supporting state initiatives for clean energy jobs, or simply by planting a tree. The Maryland Episcopal Environmental Partners currently have a partnership with the Delaware-Maryland Lutheran Synod to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation by planting 500 trees across the State of Maryland. See our website more information as well as articles pertaining to clean affordable energy, our carbon footprint, and climate change. You can view the Monthly E-News archived pages on the at http://greengrace.episcopalmaryland.org/monthly-e-news-pages/
 Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, B. DeAngelo, S. Doherty, K. Hayhoe, R. Horton, J.P. Kossin, P.C. Taylor, A.M. Waple, and C.P. Weaver, 2017: Executive summary. In: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 12-34, doi: 10.7930/J0DJ5CTG.