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The People Have Spoken: Consistent Support for the Clean Power Plan

Electricity-generating wind turbines in a corn field outside of Carlock, Illinois.

August 2016 marked the first anniversary of the finalization of the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, which provides a regulatory framework for states to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It is a central tenet of the U.S. plan to achieve the climate goals established in last year’s Paris Agreement.

Over the past year, opponents of the CPP—including coal companies, many electric utilities, and their elected allies—have left no stone unturned in their bid to undo these carbon pollution standards.

Efforts to block the Clean Power Plan are misguided

Immediately after the plan was finalized, a collection of industry groups, power companies, and industry-friendly state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to challenge the new carbon pollution limits. The power producers affiliated with this litigation emitted nearly 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2014—or about one-fifth of the United States’ total carbon pollution that year. The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate also tried to block the standards, an effort President Barack Obama vetoed in 2015.

On September 27, 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the litigation in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.

These polluters and states are litigating the CPP even though it stands on firm legal ground. Richard Revesz, professor of law and dean emeritus at the New York University School of Law, testified before the U.S. Senate that the CPP is “a run-of-the-mill example of cooperative federalism that is common under the Clean Air Act and that is unproblematic from a constitutional perspective.”

Furthermore, states are already working toward complying with the CPP’s requirements. Many states—such as Colorado—have expressed their commitment to planning for compliance with the rule, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay on implementation.

Indeed, the CPP enjoys broad public support. States, local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and elected officials have come out publicly in strong support of the rule.

The American public consistently supports the Clean Power Plan

Public polling has also shown consistent support for the CPP across the country. This is not surprising, since the plan will cut harmful pollution, protect public health, and strengthen the United States’ growing clean energy economy.

A September 2016 poll conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy found that two-thirds of people surveyed supported the CPP. The survey polled nearly 6,000 people across eight states. Of the sampled states, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, and Ohio are petitioners in the lawsuit attempting to nullify the rule. Even in these states, a majority of people polled support the CPP. In Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida, 68 percent of respondents to the poll favor the rule, and 66 percent favor it in Ohio.

These results are not an aberration. A poll released by the same university in May 2016 showed similar results—69 percent of respondents overall supported the CPP, with 67 percent in states that oppose the rule and 71 percent in states that support it. Bloomberg Philanthropies released results of a similar poll in April 2016, assessing attitudes on the CPP in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin—all states in which attorneys general are suing. Those who were polled supported the CPP in each state, with support ranging from 64 percent in Missouri to 73 percent in Florida. Several other state-specific polls have reaffirmed that a majority of respondents support the CPP, even in states with an attorney general or governor who is hostile toward the rule.

As West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency moves through the courts, it is important to remember that support for the CPP is broad and deep. In contrast, the companies most responsible for the pollution itself—and their elected allies—are driving the opposition.

Myriam Alexander-Kearns is a Research Associate for the Energy Policy team at the Center for American Progress. Alison Cassady is the Director of Domestic Energy Policy at the Center.