June 3, 2015

Most States on Track to Meet Clean Power Plan 2020 Benchmarks

Six States Suing EPA Close to or Expected to Surpass Their 2020 Benchmarks

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2015)—The majority of states, 31, have already made commitments that put them more than halfway toward meeting their 2020 benchmarks for carbon emissions reductions in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan, according to new analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). An examination of current state policies and commitments such as carbon caps, mandatory renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards, and announced coal plant closures revealed that the proposed Clean Power Plan timeline and trajectory for emission cuts are achievable.

“Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have claimed the emissions reduction requirements go too far too fast, and are therefore not achievable,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS president. “Our research shows this Chicken Little forecast is unfounded given that a majority of states are already more than halfway toward meeting their 2020 benchmarks with 14 even on track to exceed them.”

Of the 14 states on track to exceed their 2020 benchmarks, nine are RGGI states, three are among the nation’s most coal dependent states, and two are states challenging the standard in court.

“Clean Power Plan opponents have also mischaracterized the compliance timeline for states,” said Jeremy Richardson, senior energy analyst at UCS. “The EPA has made it clear that the 2020 benchmark is not a requirement states must achieve, but rather a checkpoint to help states get on an emissions reduction trajectory toward meeting the mandatory 2030 goal.”

Key findings from the analysis include:

  • 14 states are already on track to surpass their 2020 Clean Power Plan benchmarks. These states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.
  • Nine additional states, for a total of 23, are more than 75 percent toward meeting their 2020 Clean Power Plan benchmarks. These states are Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.
  • Another eight states are more than 50 percent toward meeting their 2020 Clean Power Plan benchmarks. These states are Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin.

(For more information on the national findings and methodology for the research, see the latest blog by Richardson.)

One surprising finding was that six states currently suing the EPA to stop the Clean Power Plan from moving forward are doing so despite the fact that they are close to or expected to surpass their 2020 benchmarks. Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio are slated to exceed their benchmarks. Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin are more than halfway there.

“It defies logic and reason that states already demonstrating their ability to make significant cuts in carbon emissions would sue the agency claiming undue hardship,” said Richardson. “These six states are doing a great job proving the EPA’s case—that states can meet these new standards affordably and reliably, because they already have commitments in place to help them do so.”

(This finding is discussed in greater detail in a corresponding UCS blog.)

Energy policy and economics expert Sue Tierney, senior advisor at Analysis Group, agrees that states are well positioned to comply with the 2020 Clean Power Plan emissions benchmarks without negatively affecting reliability.

“UCS’s latest analysis highlights the actions states have already had underway for years that will point them in the direction of meeting their Clean Power Plan emissions benchmarks,” said Tierney. “Research from the Analysis Group shows these capabilities—coupled with standard reliability practices used for decades by the industry and its regulators—can prevent reliability issues while also reducing carbon pollution and related costs.”

The analysis also confirmed that the nine mid-Atlantic states that form the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional cap-and-trade program to reduce power plant carbon pollution, are on track collectively to exceed their benchmarks.

“The success of RGGI states has been two-fold,” said Richardson. “They’ve shown that they can affordably and more easily reduce their emissions by going it together rather than alone. They have also been able to use the proceeds they’ve received from allowances purchased by carbon emitters to help fund their renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. This strategy could prove equally successful in other regions of the country.”

The UCS analysis found that the country as a whole is well-positioned to meet the targets because 29 states have renewable electricity standards, 24 states have energy efficiency standards, and as of 2012, 39 states have together closed or are scheduled to close at least 295 coal generating units between 2012 and 2020. The coal units represent more than 46,600 megawatts of coal generating capacity, or about 13 percent of the U.S. coal fleet, as well as over 10 percent of total U.S. coal-fired electricity generation.

“More than half the country now has a roadmap for reducing carbon emissions,” said Richardson. “If these states stay the course, and further develop their renewable energy potential, reduce their energy use, and possibly even join forces with their neighboring states, they should have no trouble meeting their 2030 goals.”

The slide deck for this analysis, which contains national maps, can be found here.

The table of state information can be found here.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.