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US EPA aims to finalize Clean Power Plan replacement rule by early 2019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to issue a proposed replacement rule for the Clean Power Plan by early fall and finalize the rule by early 2019, the agency told a federal court.

The EPA disclosed its plans in a July 26 status report to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case State of West Virginia v. EPA (No. 15-1363), in which the court allowed the Clean Power Plan to remain on hold.

The Clean Power Plan, issued by the Obama administration in August 2015, would have placed carbon emissions requirements on existing fossil fuel power plants and directed states to develop plans to meet certain emissions rates. The rule has never gone into effect and was suspended by the court while the Trump administration's EPA moves to repeal and replace the rule.

The replacement rule, a draft of which the EPA sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, for interagency review on July 9, is expected to be significantly narrower and require coal-fired generators to make plant-specific thermal efficiency improvements.

The EPA told the court that while the interagency review can take up to 90 days, the agency has asked OMB to expedite the process and hopes to complete it in August.

"The Clean Power Plan replacement rulemaking is a high priority for the agency, and EPA is committed to completing it as expeditiously as practicable," the agency said.

It expects to publish the proposed Clean Power Plan replacement rule in the Federal Register by late summer or early fall "so that the agency will be in a position to take final action ... by the first part of 2019."

The EPA recently said it is also gearing up to send proposed changes to the separate carbon standards for new power plants for OMB review in August. That rulemaking, combined with the Clean Power plan, was part of the Obama administration's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in the U.S. that most scientists say are contributing to climate change.