It’s time for an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

President Biden and Congress must lead the charge to defeat the climate crisis and build a thriving, just and inclusive clean energy future. Join our work to help make it happen.

Donate

It’s time for an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

President Biden and Congress must lead the charge to defeat the climate crisis and build a thriving, just and inclusive clean energy future. Join our work to help make it happen.

Powering Towards 100% Clean Power

An inside look at our strategy.

On the campaign trail in 2020, President Biden made a bold commitment to achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035. This year, his administration has the opportunity to make significant progress toward this goal and deliver on a key campaign promise. But to do so, it will have to lean into a whole-of-government response to defeating climate change and tackling pollution in the power sector. 

To execute on President Biden’s clean energy commitment, the administration must pursue a three-pronged approach that will engage multiple federal agencies and enhance state leadership in accelerating America’s clean energy transition. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Department of Energy (DOE) must take the lead to drive down pollution while supporting states as they fulfill their own commitments to clean electricity. Specifically:

  1. The EPA must coordinate a comprehensive regulatory strategy to tackle air and water pollution from the power sector;
  2. FERC should pave the way for new clean energy to quickly and easily come online
  3. DOE must enhance state leadership, leveraging federal funds to help them achieve their 100% clean power goals.


EPA: Tackling Pollution in the Power Sector

Blog Post Image

EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Power sector pollution is deadly. Fossil fuel power plants produce harmful pollution that disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color, causing heart attacks, lung diseases, and strokes and keeping people from going to work and school. In a recent speech, EPA Administrator Michael Regan acknowledged this reality, stating, “Every year, pollution from power plants causes 8,000 fine particle and ozone-related premature deaths, tens of thousands of new asthma cases, thousands of heart attacks, and millions of lost school and workdays.” Stronger regulations that force emitters to clean up their act will save lives and foster healthier, more resilient communities. 

The EPA has the long-standing legal authority to limit air and water pollution, granted by a number of key environmental laws - including the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The CAA is a bedrock environmental law that has successfully protected Americans from air pollution for decades while promoting innovation and supporting economic growth. The CWA has protected our rivers from the raw sewage and waste disposal that infamously caused the Cuyahoga River to burn in the 60s, and is heralded as one of the great successes of American environmental law. And the RCRA has protected American communities and cities from unfettered trash and hazardous waste for more than 40 years. EPA must use these interrelated authorities to pursue a coordinated approach to tackling air and water pollution from the power sector. 

And there’s good news! In his recent speech at CERAWeek, Administrator Michael Regan indicated that the agency will move forward with just such a coordinated strategy. He highlighted the increased efficiency of a comprehensive regulatory approach, delivering maximum pollution-reduction benefits and clarity to stakeholders. The administrator also explained that this multi-pollutant approach will provide “greater transparency, regulatory certainty for long-term investments, opportunities to reduce compliance complexity, and the right signals to create market and price stability."

To fully tackle pollution in the power sector, the EPA must move forward with each of the following regulatory standards:

Blog Post Image

EPA has already announced progress on some of these critical public health safeguards. In February 2022, EPA proposed restoring a legal finding that will allow them to strengthen the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) for power plants. 

Strengthening MATS would meaningfully reduce toxic air pollution, and the agency should move quickly to do so. Updating and strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for both smog-forming ozone and particulate matter 2.5 (commonly known as soot) which contribute to heart and lung diseases, would dramatically improve air quality for Americans across the country. EPA has announced dates, shown in the graphic above, for expected progress on updating the soot NAAQS, but the Agency has not yet done so for the ozone NAAQs - EPA must move quickly to do so. Finalizing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) would further limit nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution that travels across state lines and produces lung-damaging smog. The EPA is moving forward with this rulemaking and proposed a strong Good Neighbor Rule draft update in February 2022. The EPA is also updating and strengthening rules governing toxic coal ash ponds (the Coal Combustion Rule or CCR), as coal ash is a leading source of water pollution due to deadly chemicals like mercury, arsenic, and cadmium seeping into drinking water sources. 

In addition to the safeguards listed above, EPA should expeditiously move forward with rulemakings on the full range of clean air rules, including strengthening and strictly enforcing the Regional Haze Rule. This would help preserve the quality of national parks by limiting pollution that impairs visibility. Closing loopholes that allow power plants to pollute excessively with the Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction Rule would also limit deadly power plant pollution and would have immediate benefits for communities living adjacent to these polluting facilities, which are all-too-often communities of color. And strengthening the rules governing toxic water pollution from power plants (known as Effluent Limitations Guidelines) would limit the toxic wastewater power plants are allowed to discharge directly into our waterways. 

We were also pleased to hear Administrator Regan reaffirm his commitment to using the agency’s authority to directly tackle carbon pollution from the power sector as part of this comprehensive strategy. These safeguards must address carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants, doing so in a way that can withstand scrutiny from the Supreme Court, using authority under sections 111 (b) and (d) of the Clean Air Act. These rules must address pollution from both coal and fossil gas plants. To inform this effort, EPA has announced encouraging efforts to explore technologies to limit multiple sources of pollution from new gas plants, including NOx and carbon pollution, and a white paper is expected from the agency on this topic very soon. 

We applaud Administrator Regan’s innovative leadership in mapping out a comprehensive regulatory approach to tackling pollution in the power sector. This holistic framework will maximize impact and efficiencies, benefiting our communities, the climate, and businesses alike. Keep an eye out for next steps and ways to support him in this leadership!
 

FERC: Facilitating Clean Energy Deployment

Blog Post Image

© 2014 Ryan McKnight/Flickr cc by 2.0

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will be a critical player in enabling the transition to clean energy. FERC is an independent agency focused on providing the nation with safe, reliable, and affordable energy. FERC regulates interstate transmission lines and governs siting of interstate gas pipelines, storage facilities, and export terminals. This authority is granted by multiple energy laws. Under the Federal Power Act, FERC is charged with ensuring electricity rates and practices are “just and reasonable” and not “unduly discriminatory” or “preferential.” Under the Natural Gas Act, FERC is tasked with reviewing new gas pipelines and granting (or denying) their certificate of “public convenience or necessity,” and determining whether Liquified Natural Gas export terminals are “consistent with the public interest.” As such, this independent agency has a major role to play in determining our country’s energy future. 

When FERC was established, oil and coal were the main energy sources powering our country, and the market structure, permitting processes and regulations were designed with fossil fuels in mind. Now that there is a need to integrate clean energy sources into the power grid, FERC should level the playing field for clean electricity in wholesale power markets and modernize our grid to help ensure equitable access to clean energy. After all, clean electricity is cheaper for customers and will result in safer and more reliable energy in the long run. 

FERC can also help make the wholesale market a fair place for clean electricity generation by allowing the grid to be more accessible to clean electricity generation and instituting market reforms to make clean electricity deployment easier. Specifically, FERC should reform interconnection processes to ensure that clean energy resources are not blocked from connecting to the grid or allowed to languish in the queue, waiting for “connection” for up to years at a time. This can be done by prioritizing cost allocation improvements in regional and interregional transmission planning. Similarly, FERC can improve transmission planning practices to account for the expected growth in renewable energy, which is often geographically distant from the current grid connection. This foresight in planning could help prevent delays as clean energy sources attempt to connect to the grid over the years to come. Luckily, FERC has already initiated a rulemaking to consider exactly these types of reforms - last year, FERC issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) that could lead to reforms that are essential to achieving our clean power goals. This is the first major transmission reform FERC has considered in over a decade, and we are eager to see how it progresses - a proposed rule is due out very soon!

Additionally, FERC can ensure that distributed energy resources (DERs, e.g. solar, wind, and battery storage) get fair market access so that states cannot limit DERs from connecting to the energy grid. FERC should also work to expand the competitive wholesale electricity market in the Southeast and Western states to allow for cost-effective electrification across the country.

FERC can also play a role in limiting pollution from gas pipelines and has signaled that it plans to leverage this authority. For the first time in 20 years, FERC has updated its policy for the process of certifying new interstate natural gas projects. In February 2022, FERC issued an Interim GHG Policy Statement stating that it will now consider the impacts of climate change when determining the need for future natural gas infrastructure projects. And for the first time in its history, FERC has expressed interest in formally considering the impact of new gas pipelines on environmental justice communities, when evaluating applications for new gas pipelines. This will finally account for the true environmental and public health burdens placed on environmental justice communities when new gas pipelines are developed. FERC recently extended the deadline for commenting on each of these important policies until April 25th!

 

DOE: Investing to Support State Clean Energy Leadership

Blog Post Image

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm

A true all-of-government approach will require states to continue leading on clean energy deployment and reducing pollution from the power sector. Federal agencies, particularly the Department of Energy, can help enhance state leadership with federal dollars flowing through their programs towards states. The $62 billion flowing to the Department of Energy as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides a critical opportunity for this federal-state partnership - these dollars will fund many new and existing programs at the agency that will specifically help states achieve their clean energy and climate goals. For instance, the DOE Loan Guarantee Program, allows states to use federal loan guarantees to pay for cost-effective clean energy upgrades. States can also access the DOE’s Building a Better Grid Initiative to reduce barriers to renewable energy development across the country. State and local governments can use technical assistance from the DOE’s National Labs to support the development of plans to help states and local governments achieve a transition to 100% clean energy. 

The DOE should also partner with other federal agencies to advance clean energy deployment which will improve public health and energy affordability. Specifically, DOE should coordinate with the Department of Agriculture to support the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest federal utility, and other electric co-ops inequitably transitioning to clean energy. Given that the Tennessee Valley Authority is one of the largest emitters of air pollution in the country, federal efforts should be coordinated to reduce this source of pollution. For example, President Biden should nominate a full slate of board members to the Tennessee Valley Authority, as there will likely be 5 vacancies by May. Congress must act expeditiously to approve these nominees to allow the utility to function.
 

The Path Ahead

President Biden can make significant progress towards his cornerstone campaign promise to achieve 100% clean power by 2035 by relying on leadership from EPA, FERC, and DOE. This must include a comprehensive, multi-pollutant regulatory strategy from EPA, as well as engagement from FERC in supporting a fair market for clean energy infrastructure. And federal assistance through DOE must be leveraged to support states in achieving their 100% clean power goals, which will protect the health of millions of Americans while also creating millions of new, family-sustaining jobs. Access to cleaner, safer, cheaper and more reliable energy is within reach for Americans. But, it will require coordinated action from all levels of government and regulatory agencies for Americans. 

To stay informed about action being taken by the EPA, FERC and states, you can also sign up to receive action alerts from Evergreen, including new policy launches and future blogs.