Standards for federal power plants

Information on this page is being maintained to continue informing the public about changes to federal power plant standards.

History of the federal Clean Power Plan

In August 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the first ever greenhouse gas limits for the nation's existing power plants. Called the “Clean Power Plan,” the rule was part of an ambitious effort to demonstrate U.S. leadership on climate change, and to do the nation's part to meet our international commitment to reduce carbon pollution.  The rule required each state to submit a Clean Power Plan to EPA to show how the state would meet the greenhouse gas limits for existing power plants.

In response, we partnered with the Washington Department of Commerce and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and started to develop Washington’s Clean Power Plan. In 2015 and early 2016, we met with the public, representatives of vulnerable communities, owners of power plants, and the environmental community as part of this process. 

However, on Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in a 5-4 vote, to stay EPA's Clean Power Plan. The order responded to a request from several states, utilities, and other industry groups asking the high court to put the rule on hold while legal challenges played out in a lower court.

Affordable Clean Energy rule

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan final rule and eliminate other federal initiatives addressing climate change. On June 19, 2019, EPA adopted the "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) plan to replace the Clean Power Plan. On Jan. 19, 2021 this rule was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Supreme Court limits EPA authority

Despite both the Clean Power Plan and the ACE rule no longer being in effect, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Clean Power Plan on June 30, 2022. The court ruled that EPA lacked authority under section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act to require existing power plants to shift generation from more polluting sources (such as coal) to less polluting sources (such as wind power), as it had done in the Clean Power Plan.

Current federal rulemaking

EPA began preparing for a new rule proposal for regulating existing power plants in early 2022. EPA expects to release draft regulations in March of 2023, which means that final rules are not likely until 2024. We will work with our partner agencies once again and actively participate in helping to shape these new federal power plant regulations. We are also tracking EPA regulatory developments for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants.

State power plant requirements

Washington state has a robust set of state laws and rules to reduce emissions from power plants and electricity, including the Climate Commitment Act and the Clean Energy Transformation Act, as well as greenhouse gas mitigation requirements and emission performance standards for power plants.