This document constitutes the comments of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) on the proposed federal plan requirements for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electric utility generating units under the Clean Power Plan, proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and published in the Federal Register on October 23, 2015. C2ES is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing practical and effective policies and actions to address our global climate change and energy challenges. As such, the views expressed here are those of C2ES alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). In addition, the comments made in this document pertain to existing sources in the specific sector addressed by the Proposal and may not be appropriate for other industrial sectors or for new electric utility generating units.
C2ES believes a nationwide, economy-wide market based policy would be the most efficient and effective way to reduce GHG emissions by harnessing market forces to spur clean energy innovation, development and deployment. However, enactment of federal legislation that would establish a comprehensive market-based policy to reduce GHG emissions is not likely in the near-term. Given the urgency of addressing the rising risks that climate change poses to U.S. economic, environmental, and security interests, and the inability of Congress to establish our preferred approach of a nationwide price on carbon, C2ES believes EPA, as it implements the Clean Power Plan, should rely upon market-based approaches. Acting now will provide environmental benefits now and in the future, economic growth, and the opportunity for US companies to lead development of innovative technologies for which global demand is rapidly increasing.
The proposed federal plan requirements are an important component of the Clean Power Plan as they establish a framework for what may constitute a federal implementation plan in the event a state does not submit an adequate state implementation plan. The requirements are important as they may also serve as model rules offering guidance to states on possible provisions of an adequate state implementation plan.
C2ES supports the proposed federal plan requirements based on several key characteristics of the proposal.
- Market-based mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions are encouraged: The proposed federal plan requirements are market based and offer two market approaches, rate-based and mass-based trading. The inclusion of these market approaches in the proposal guides and facilitates the use of market-based policies by states. Moreover, the proposal retains flexibility for states to create markets that are responsive to specific state needs as well enact ancillary policies to achieve additional policy objectives.
- The Clean Power Plan could serve as a stepping-stone to a comprehensive, national program: In offering the proposed federal plan requirements as model rules, EPA is moving individual state actions toward a broader, nationwide program. The proposal could facilitate the development of market-based policies in more states and could thereby provide additional experience, learning opportunities, and frameworks necessary to ultimately develop a successful national program.
- EPA-defined model provisions encourage interstate consistency: Model provisions for topics such as tracking systems and what evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) protocols to use to track efficiency measures will help states meet the deadline for their plans and could promote consistency across states. Such consistency could facilitate interoperability and the creation of a large, liquid market that reduces compliance costs for all participants.
EPA has invited comment on whether to finalize a single approach (i.e., either a mass? or rate?based approach) for a federal plan. While choosing a single approach that creates a large, liquid market would reduce compliance costs for all participants and a mass-based approach would likely be administratively simpler to implement, states should be allowed to maintain the flexibility to implement rate-based programs as under the final rule establishing the Clean Power Plan. If a federal implementation plan is necessary for a state, EPA should maintain the flexibility to implement either approach as warranted by the specific circumstances of that state.
C2ES believes states should have the flexibility to use existing systems or a new, EPA-administered tracking system. However, it would be in the best interest of the state and market if the tracking system were interoperable with the national market. Interoperability of tracking systems allow the credible and transparent tracking of assets across state lines, thereby facilitating a larger market which reduces compliance costs for all participants. Existing tracking systems provide insights for the Clean Power Plan. Please see the attached C2ES brief on tracking for more information.
The allocation of allowances in a mass-based program is a significant policy decision. Allowances represent a significant source of value and can be used to compensate firms or individuals affected by climate change policy or to raise funds for other socially desirable policy objectives. The basic allocation decision involves whether to freely allocate or auction some or all emission allowances. And further, if freely allocated, to whom and how to distribute, and if to auction allowances, the type of auction and how to distribute the revenues. Please see the attached C2ES brief on allocation policies for more information.
Carbon markets, like other commoditites markets, require provisions to ensure that the market functions effectively, is efficient and liquid, and is not manipulated by some participants. A carbon market can best achieve its environmnental aim if it is well designed and functions efficiently from the beginning. A well-designed policy should include effective means to prevent excessively high prices, extreme volatility, and market manipulation – the action by an individual or small group of individuals to alter the price of a good for their own advantage – which is best achieved through effective policy and market design.