Federal climate change initiatives

Power plants

Since 2015, EPA has been developing rules to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. CO2 is one of the major greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. EPA has changed its strategies for achieving reductions from power plants and the regulations have been challenged in court, so none of the regulations have been implemented so far.

Clean Power Plan

In 2015, the EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which set CO2 emission reduction targets for existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants and required states to develop plans to achieve those required reductions. States were given flexibility to select methods of reducing CO2 from these plants, including making them more efficient, relying more on renewable energy and natural gas, and planning for additional energy conservation. In Minnesota, the MPCA led extensive stakeholder and public outreach efforts regarding the adoption of CPP rules and how our state’s utilities could further reduce their emissions of CO2.

Affordable Clean Energy Rule

In October 2017, the EPA proposed to repeal the CPP, which the new administration believes exceeded the EPA’s legal authority under the Clean Air Act. In August 2018, EPA proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule to replace the CPP. Unlike the Clean Power Plan (CPP), ACE seeks to reduce CO2 emissions from existing coal plants by relying only on efficiency improvements at the facilities themselves, rather than across the power sector. The ACE proposal would result in significantly less CO2 emission reductions than the broader CPP.

The ACE rule has not yet been finalized. The MPCA has been engaged in analyzing the proposed rule to understand its potential impacts on Minnesota and climate change. The MPCA, along with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Department of Health provided comments on the rule proposal, which you can find here:

Vehicles

In 2012, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars, SUVs, and light trucks. These standards required emissions reductions every year through 2025. In early 2018, the new administration announced it believes the standards set in 2012 for the years 2021-2025 were too stringent. In August of 2018, EPA and NHTSA proposed a new rule called the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule that would freeze emissions standards at model year (MY) 2020 levels for new vehicles produced between MY 2021 and MY 2026.  The SAFE rule would reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector by far less than the original standards.

The Clean Air Act allows California to set its own, more stringent vehicle emissions standards if it receives a waiver from the EPA. The CAA also allows states to adopt California’s standards rather than the federal standards. California and many other states have standards that align with the existing (2012) vehicle GHG emissions standards that the SAFE rule would alter. The SAFE rule also proposes to revoke California’s waiver and force it and the states that have adopted its standards to rely on the federal standards instead.

The rule has not yet been finalized. The MPCA has been engaged in analyzing the proposed rule to understand its potential impacts on Minnesota and climate change. The MPCA, along with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Health provided comments on the rule proposal, which you can find here:

Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)

EPA requires that large GHG emissions sources, fuel and industrial gas suppliers, and CO2 injection sites report emissions data and other relevant information. This reporting rule is referred to as the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP). The data submitted through the GHGRP are used by businesses, state and local air agencies, and nonprofits to track and compare facilities’ GHG emissions, work with partners to identify ways to reduce emissions, minimize waste, and develop effective emissions policies.

About 8,000 facilities, covering 41 source categories, are required to report annual emissions through the GHGRP. These emissions total an average 3 billion metric tons CO2e annually, or about half of all U.S. GHG emissions.

Federal regulatory initiatives

Learn more about EPA’s past efforts to address climate change:

Fourth National Climate Assessment (Volume II)

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is required, by Congress, to provide a report addressing climate-related findings, the effects of global change, and expected trends every four years. The U.S. Global Change Research Program is comprised of 13 federal agencies that work together to review the impacts of a changing climate on all U.S. citizens. Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment was released by the program in November 2018.

Volume II describes the effects of climate change on human welfare, society, and the environment – particularly projected impacts, associated risks, and potential mitigation pathways. Human-caused climate change is having a strong impact on the U.S., and work needs to be done to address those changes and prevent future problems.
Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment is available on the U.S. Global Change Research Program website.

Volume I of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which was released in 2017, describes the scientific findings and data used to develop the conclusions in Volume II.