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CCEP > Projects > Regulating Carbon under the Clean Air Act: A Focus on the Electric Power Sector

Regulating Carbon under the Clean Air Act: A Focus on the Electric Power Sector

The modern Clean Air Act, originally passed in 1970, has proven durable and flexible. Since 2007, the act has been used to regulate greenhouse gases that cause climate change, including standards for mobile emissions sources and pre-construction permitting of stationary sources.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is now moving to issue performance standards for new and, importantly, existing sources in the electric power sector, which account for 40 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions. Accordingly, alongside state policies, the Clean Air Act has become the central vehicle for US climate policy.

RFF researchers are analyzing the effectiveness, efficiency, and distributional impacts of options for regulating carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. Below are examples of recent work.

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Research Highlights

  • The Costs and Consequences of Clean Air Act Regulation of CO2 from Power Plants. RFF’s Dallas Burtraw, Joshua Linn, Karen L. Palmer, and Anthony Paul compare policy options for regulating carbon dioxide from power plants under the Clean Air Act. Flexible approaches would create credits or permits that could be distributed to electricity producers, consumers, or the government—and each option impacts electricity prices and social costs differently.
  • Technology Flexibility and Stringency for Greenhouse Gas Regulations. Under the Clean Air Act, tradable performance standards emerge as the likely tool to achieve flexibility in the regulation of existing stationary sources. In this discussion paper, RFF’s Dallas Burtraw and Matthew Woerman examine the relationship between flexibility and stringency.
  • Comparing the Clean Air Act and a Carbon Price. Over the past half-decade, a variety of federal legislative proposals for limiting greenhouse gas emissions have been put forward, most of which would set a price on carbon and would have preempted authority to regulate those emissions under the Clean Air Act. In this discussion paper, RFF’s Nathan Richardson and Arthur Fraas assess both policies and, in particular, the features that are important to a comparative evaluation.
  • Playing Without Aces: Offsets and the Limits of Flexibility under Clean Air Act Climate Policy. In this discussion paper, RFF’s Nathan Richardson analyzes different regulatory options under the Clean Air Act, including trading among different sources, biomass co-firing, and offsets. While trading among emitters appears generally compatible with the law, legal limitations and practical problems make more ambitious trading schemes that could reduce costs difficult or impossible to adopt. This research was also published in Environmental Law.

See more research on the Clean Air Act.

Recent Posts on RFF’s Blog, Common Resources

See more blog posts on the Clean Air Act.