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We’re leading an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

Join our work today to help us build a thriving and just clean energy future. 

Grades Are In: EPA Earns High Marks Finalizing Key Power Sector Rules

EPA’s progress on 11 power sector rules is an enormous step forward in cutting pollution, cleaning our air and water, and saving lives.

In 2022, responding to calls from advocates across the climate movement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced a coordinated, multi-pollutant strategy to cut pollution from the power sector, by harmonizing many of the rules and regulations that crack down on power plant pollution. Over the past two years, EPA has made significant progress on this agenda, going further, faster on many of these key rules. Most recently, in April 2024, EPA announced the finalization of four more power sector rules, completing what’s likely to be the last round of rule announcements this term. 

Since EPA Administrator Regan’s announcement, Evergreen has been tracking 11 key power sector rules in particular and where they are in the rulemaking process, releasing new versions of our EPA Power Sector Report Card as the rules progress.

Now that pens are down for this first term and the Biden administration has wrapped up a major portion of its power sector agenda, Evergreen took one final look at these 11 rules. This report card offers one last examination of how EPA measured up to its own multi-pollutant agenda and gives each of the 11 rules a grade to reflect its strength and how well it incorporated feedback from advocates and community members. 

Each of these rules represents a critical stepping stone in the path to building our clean energy future, and collectively, they will play a huge role in meeting President Biden’s climate commitments. Let’s see how they did.

 

Blog Post Image - Report Card

How Did EPA Do?

EPA Administrator Regan’s coordinated, multi-pollutant approach was ambitious—he set out to finalize a suite of rules on a very fast timeline, sped up even faster to April 2024 to avoid potentially being subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA). 

Now that EPA has finished its rush of power sector regulations in advance of the CRA deadline and this phase of rulemaking has come to a close, Evergreen analyzed EPA’s progress over the past two years and determined that the agency has made historic progress in protecting communities and the climate by addressing pollution across the sector.

EPA finalized 9 of the 11 power sector rules Evergreen tracked. Because of extensive public comment and procedural requirements and the potential for lengthy litigation, the rulemaking process often takes years. The fossil fuel industry is lobbying for laxer standards every day. It’s no small feat that EPA was able to follow through on its promise to finalize most of these rules and deliver major climate, public health, and economic benefits across the country. 

Evergreen also graded the strength of these final rules. EPA ended the term with 7 A’s, 2 B’s, and 2 Incompletes. The justification for each of those grades is above. These high marks are a reflection of the hard work of advocates across the country, who successfully pushed not only for updated rules but strong and ambitious updated rules. Together, the combined impact of these rules will cut approximately 155 million tons of carbon pollution each year, save 7,200 lives annually, and create $73 billion in health and climate benefits every year, across the country. Over time, that represents trillions of dollars of economic benefits, billions of tons of avoided climate pollution, and tens of thousands of lives saved.

This progress represents a huge win for communities and the climate—with more work ahead to finish the job. Included in these rules are first-ever federal limits on power plant pollution, along with limits to toxic heavy metal discharge into waterways; soot, mercury, and other toxics into our air; and coal ash pollution into our groundwater. These rules consist of historic, first-of-their-kind standards, instances of EPA strengthening existing rules to require more modern control technologies to be installed, and closing loopholes that have allowed polluters to skirt the intention of previous regulations. Moreover, they showcase unprecedented progress in cleaning up power plants, the largest industrial source of climate pollution, along with other air and water pollution across the U.S.  

Practically, finalizing this suite of rules means drastically curbing climate-warming pollution, fewer people coping with asthma, cancer, and heart and lung disease, and cleaner, safer water—a huge stride in our collective fight for a safer planet and healthier communities. Addressing climate and environmental justice are two sides of the same coin, and by finalizing nearly all of these rules, EPA signaled that addressing both is a priority for it and the Biden administration. 

EPA finalizing this suite of first-term rules is a consequential milestone on the path to a safer future for all—and there is still much to be done. These rules need to be defended in Congress and in the courts, they need to be efficiently and effectively implemented, and a few of them still need to be strengthened and finalized in the next term. We must celebrate these hard-won successes for the climate and our communities while remaining committed to seeing this multi-pollutant agenda through to its completion.

Why These Rules Matter 

The projected numbers forecasting the public benefits of these rules speak for themselves. But there’s even more benefit to strategically focusing on the power sector: It catalyzes a positive domino effect, addressing carbon pollution in almost every corner of our economy, as we work to electrify those as well. Cleaning up the power sector unlocks economy-wide carbon reduction targets because nearly every sector’s pollution levels depend on how clean or polluted the grid they’re tapping into is. In other words, decarbonizing our grid will mean cleaner transportation, buildings, and some heavy industry. 

Instituting strong pollution standards is also a matter of environmental justice. Black, Latino, and low-income Americans are more likely to live next to polluting coal- and gas-fired power plants. Finalizing this suite of rules is a step in the right direction in addressing long-standing environmental injustices and decades-long pollution. Tackling power sector pollution has real-life impacts, and strong rules protect people across the country from exposure to dirty, toxic water and air that is directly linked to tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses every year. 

 

What’s Next

These lifesaving impacts underscore why it’s all the more important that we protect these hard-won regulations. Republicans in Congress and polluters, however, are gearing up to restrict EPA's authority and overturn the progress that the movement and EPA regulators worked so hard to achieve. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to defending and protecting these rules, working with EPA and our state environmental agencies to implement these rules effectively, and advocating for the remaining standards to be finalized. 

While there is more work to do, there is also a lot to be proud of. The nine historic standards that EPA finalized in the first term represent monumental progress on climate and clean air. This progress is a reflection of the tireless efforts of advocates from across the country and the leadership of EPA and the Biden administration. Now, it’s time to turn the page to the next phase of power sector advocacy, where we’ll need to bring the same drive and commitment to going further, faster, to fully deliver on our collective clean power goals.