Veteran air quality regulators at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) see significant opportunity for states to bring new approaches to air quality planning due to the unusual flexibility allowed under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act—the law underpinning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan. In a new policy brief, It’s Not a SIP: Opportunities and Implications for State 111(d) Compliance Planning, RAP finds that states are not confined to the prescriptive federal requirements generally associated with state implementation plans (SIPs) under the Clean Air Act. Instead, states can craft their compliance plans based on state policy, and can even tailor their plans to achieve compliance more cost-effectively, meet other state public policy goals, and boost state employment and economic gains—as long as the plan meets EPA’s established greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
“The Clean Power Plan throws open the doors to allow cost-effective, multi-pollutant strategies such as energy efficiency to thrive,” said Rich Sedano, principal and director of US programs at RAP. “States that take advantage of this opportunity will lower their compliance costs, reduce their risk of nonattainment for air pollutants, reap economic and environmental benefits, and alleviate reliability concerns.”
The authors acknowledge that the more familiar regulatory approach under Clean Air Act Section 110, which applies to traditional air pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter, may be tempting. But they caution against echoing the SIP approach for greenhouse gases as states prepare to comply with the Clean Power Plan. Rather, the authors encourage states to take advantage of the flexibility afforded under Section 111(d) by considering energy efficiency, clean demand response, water efficiency, and other clean energy approaches to air quality management.
“In planning for Clean Power Plan compliance, state regulators face a risk-reward continuum much like financial investors,” added Chris James, coauthor of the brief and principal at RAP. “They can pursue SIP-like approaches that have more precedent but are also more expensive and onerous. Or they can choose innovative clean energy approaches that have higher rewards in the form of lower costs, better reliability, and greater economic opportunity, but also have less precedent in gaining approval by EPA.”
To maximize reward and minimize risk, the authors recommend that every state consider the variety of compliance options offered under EPA’s proposed rule and consult with their affected sources, stakeholders, and fellow state regulatory agencies. Comparing notes with their counterparts in other states (whether or not they are engaged in formal multi-state compliance planning efforts) and communicating regularly with their EPA Regional Office can also help states to minimize their risks. In addition, the authors encourage EPA to help states develop innovative approaches to the Clean Power Plan by providing tools and guidance needed to further reduce risk.
It’s Not a SIP: Opportunities and Implications for State 111(d) Compliance Planning provides a side-by-side comparison of Sections 110 and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act and highlights the significant differences in requirements for state compliance plans under each section. The authors distinguish between EPA’s constrained role in reviewing and approving state plans to address fine particle and ozone pollution and the flexibility afforded by Section 111(d). Given states’ limited experience developing 111(d) plans, they call on EPA to help states identify and analyze acceptable compliance options and to publicize innovative approaches from which other states can benefit.