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Clean-up facts: Breaking down the EPA’s new carbon emission reduction plan




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If Jennifer Taylor, executive director of the Clean Energy Project, hasn’t read all 1,560 pages of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, released Monday, then I guess I don’t have to feel bad about having only covered the executive summary and fact-sheets myself.

“I haven’t read the whole thing,” she says, answering my question about what would happen if states failed to follow the new federal regulations. “I haven’t delved into the potential fines or penalties for compliance failure. I’d like to take a look at that and get back to you.”

Fair enough. The punishment piece notwithstanding, I was able, with Taylor’s help, to tame this beast of a document and extract some essential facts. The most interesting of them follow. (All quotes are from the EPA, unless otherwise noted.)

August 3, 2015: Date that President Obama and the EPA unveiled the “first-ever national standards that address carbon pollution from power plants,” under the auspices of the Clean Air Act of 1970

4.3 million: Number of comments EPA got on the proposed rule, which it issued a year ago

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32 percent by 2030 (as compared with 2005): The amount by which the Clean Power Plan requires the country to reduce its carbon dioxide pollution from the power sector, in order to show the world we’re a leader in addressing climate change

31 percent: Power plants’ share of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making them “by far the largest domestic stationary source of emissions of CO2”

82 percent: CO2’s share of air pollutant greenhouse gases, which the EPA has determined endanger public health and welfare through their contribution to climate change

September 6, 2016: Date that states have to submit their plans for CO2 pollution reduction to the EPA for approval, although two-year extensions can be requested. Mandatory reductions begin in 2022 and continue through 2029. Three interim periods (2022-2024, 2025-2027 and 2028-2029) come with recommended “step-down goals,” but states can set their own milestones, if they prefer. Reports are due in 2021 showing they’re on track.

2020-2021: Timeframe for states to demonstrate “early investments in wind and solar generation, as well as demand-side energy efficiency programs implemented in low-income communities,” if they want to try and land funds that will be offered through the Clean Energy Incentive Program

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$26 billion-$45 billion: EPA’s estimated net climate and health benefits, post-2030

300,000: Number of missed days of school and work that will be avoided each year

22 percent: Nevada’s state-specific CO2 reduction goal, from 1,102 to 855 pounds per net megawatt hour, if we choose a rate-based goal. We have to go from 15.5 million down to 13.5 million short tons if we choose a mass-based goal. It’s up to us to decide which measure to use. The EPA built a lot of flexibility into states’ mandates, allowing them to use the approach they deem best to meet their assigned performance standards. They can focus on improving the performance of fossil fuel-fired plants, replacing them with natural gas combined cycle units, replacing them with renewable energy capacity, or any combination thereof. States can even collaborate in multistate regional groups, trading emission credits to hit their targets.

771 lbs/MWh and 1,305 lbs/MWh: Range within which all states’ goals fall, meaning, at 855, Nevada is on the low end.

2030: Date by which the EPA projects Nevada will meet its goal — on time.


Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.