Obama's Clean Power Plan, by the Numbers

How much will it cost, and what will it do for America's environment and health?
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How much will it cost, and what will it do for America's environment and health?
maryland coal stacks smoke

Carbon plumes from a stack at the coal-fired Morgantown Generating Station in Newburg, Maryland, 2014. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Last night, the Supreme Court issued an order that delays implementation of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. The plan is a crucial part of President Barack Obama's overall strategy for combating climate change, and its stalling could undermine promises America made during recent international climate talks held in Paris—although, of course, the White House says things will be fine. (The CPP is now under review by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, with a hearing set for June 2.)

Here at Pacific Standard, we thought this would be a good time to review some of the expected consequences of the plan, by the numbers.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

As required by law, the Environmental Protection Agency wrote up a cost-benefit analysis for the CPP. The agency says the plan will cost the energy industry between $7 billion and $9 billion (in 2011 dollars) in the year 2030. Opponents to the plan have come up with other numbers: A group of coal companies commissioned an analysis that said the plan would cost $29 billion to $39 billion each year.

The EPA estimates that, by 2030, the CPP would make electricity cost about three percent more than if the plan weren't implemented, while the coal-commissioned analysis found that 40 states could see electricity prices rise by 10 percent or more and 10 states could see price jumps of 30 percent or more.

HOW MUCH WILL IT SAVE?

Both the EPA and the private analysis came to similar conclusions about how much the CPP would slash carbon emissions. The former projects that, by 2030, America's yearly carbon emissions from the energy sector will be 32 percent lower than they were in 2005. The latter says they'll be 36 percent to 37 percent lower. The EPA estimates the benefit to the environment may be worth $17 billion. (The private analysis doesn't bother to quantify the CPP's benefits.)

One often-overlooked upside of reducing carbon emissions is that it will improve people's health. Power plant emissions harm the heart and lungs, which is why a number of public health organizations support the plan. In a letter, these organizations say that, in 2030, the CPP would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.

The private analysis doesn't address health benefits.

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Catastrophic Consequences of Climate Change” is Pacific Standard’s year-long investigation into the devastating effects of climate change—and how scholars, legislators, and citizen-activists can help stave off its most dire consequences.

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