BRADENTON, Fla. — Within hours of the Obama Administration's release of the long-awaited final Clean Power Plan, some states vowed to take legal action to block the rule while others supported the measure.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the final rule Monday to limit carbon emissions from power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan establishes national standards limiting carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of such emissions in the United States. It also sets "flexible standards" for states to reduce emissions by 32% by 2030.
"Over the past 6-1/2 years we've taken on some of the toughest challenges of our time," President Obama said. "But I am convinced that no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than changing climate."
In its formal comments to the EPA, the American Public Power Association has cited potentially "enormous" costs to small public power utilities.
Rating agency analysts have said that the plan could prove challenging and potentially costly for some states to implement, particularly those more dependent on coal-fired plants that typically produce more atmosphere-heating carbon dioxide than other types of generating plants.
In a February report on the draft rules, Fitch Ratings cited Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and West Virginia as facing sizable carbon-reduction requirements or high-cost alternatives, or both, as a result of the mandates, which will affect public power and investor-owned utilities.
The amount of carbon dioxide to be reduced is 9% higher than was announced in a previous draft of the rule, according to the administration.
"I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by the huge changes the EPA made from the proposed rule," Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said within hours of the announcement. "What is being proposed for Kentucky is disastrous - disastrous for our declining coal economy and equally disastrous for our very important manufacturing economy."
The standards established for Kentucky, a coal-dependent state, fail to consider the state's comments about its consequences, said Beshear, who is term-limited out of office this year.
Beshear said the state has few alternatives to formulate its own plan without causing significant harm to ratepayers, and that he plans to fight the rule in court.
Kentucky will also explore ways to comply with the rule if it becomes law "because we believe that a Kentucky-specific plan would be better than a federal plan imposed on us," he said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe applauded the plan, as did numerous environmental organizations.
"Based on an initial review, it appears that EPA made positive changes to address concerns my administration and I expressed repeatedly about ensuring equity and flexibility for Virginia in developing this final rule," McAuliffe said, adding that it would allow the state to create "the next generation of clean energy jobs."
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said he would take legal action to block the plan, which he called "illegal and arbitrary."
"The Environmental Protection Agency's new Clean Power Plan continues the Obama administration's theme of ignoring the legal limits on its executive authority in order to satisfy a political agenda that places the lowest priority on the rights of coal industry workers and American consumers," he said.
Strange claimed that the EPA plan would cause the state's average annual household energy bill to rise by more than $800 a year by the time it is implemented.
"This places an undue burden on those who can least afford it, including the poor, the elderly, and others on fixed incomes," Strange said. "What's more, it punishes as many as 16,000 Alabamians whose jobs are dependent upon the coal industry."
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who also pledged to fight the rule in court, said the new regulations would increase power bills, threaten job creation, and do little to improve the state's air quality.
McCrory said his state is on track to reduce greenhouse gases by 30% by 2030, and "has done so without federal intrusion while keeping energy costs low."
In stark contrast, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, which has already implemented greenhouse gas reduction rules for public and private utilities, praised the plan.
"California is fully engaged in tackling climate change, and we look forward to working with other states and the White House as we implement these new mandates," he said.