ByNatural Resources Defense Council
On August 3, 2015 President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Power Plan (CPP), an effort to combat climate change by reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Now, current EPA Administrator Pruitt announced formally on Oct 10th that the Trump Administration would take steps towards repealing the Clean Power Plan.
Affordable housing groups shape the rule
When the CPP was announced, Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) began mobilizing with partners in the affordable housing community to ensure that the opportunity and benefits of the CPP reach those families who need it most. EEFA is a national partnership led by Elevate Energy, the National Housing Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council dedicated to bringing awareness to and improve energy efficiency services for affordable multifamily housing.
Two years ago, we came together with the affordable housing community to work with EPA to ensure that the Clean Power Plan incorporated the needs and opportunity presented by the nation’s low-income families living in affordable housing in every state, congressional district, parish or county and municipality. Our partners participated in public forums and hearings on the CPP organized by EPA and some by states who had already begun local planning. We worked with partners across the nation to submit of dozens of formal comments highlighting the need and opportunity in the affordable housing sector. We supported the EPA in the development of the Clean Energy Incentive Program in order to “help ensure that the benefits of the CPP are shared broadly across society and that potential adverse impacts on low-income ratepayers are avoided.”1
CPP can help to address barriers to low income efficiency
EPA staffers understood that there have been “historic economic, logistical, and information barriers” to implementing demand-side EE programs in low-income communities. These barriers have increased the costs and restricted the availability of such programs. As such, Low-income households experienced the highest energy burden of any demographic, on average, (7.2%) compared to the median US energy burden of 3.5%. In other words, it’s at least twice as high. And when you compare low-income households to non-low-income households it’s three times higher.
It is for this reason that we strongly oppose Scott Pruitt’s attempts to weaken, replace or repeal the Clean Power Plan.
Implementing the Clean Power Plan, through the early adoption and incorporation of the Clean Energy Incentive Program would have delivered numerous benefits to the nation’s poorest families, those struggling with rising energy cost that are increasing faster even than the cost of housing in many states.
Many low-income and vulnerable households have few residential options but to rely on poor housing quality that result from residential segregation, long-term neighborhood disinvestment and deferred maintenance of the housing stock. These homes tend to be energy inefficient, impacting the stability of many families due to high utility bills and recurring illnesses from inadequate indoor air quality. Struggling families sometimes spend more than 20 percent of their incomes on electricity and heat2—far more than the national average of 2.7 percent3. Existing weatherization and low-income bill assistance programs are inadequate to meet the existing much less growing need for services. The Clean Power Plan would provide an incentive to expand efficiency programs and a market to generate the resources necessary to deliver.
Failure to implement the Clean Power Plan could mean that these households can expect electric bills that are on average $17 per month higher in 2030 than they would be if we implement existing policy.
Boosting energy efficiency also means we avoid the cost of building out expensive energy infrastructure like power plants and transmission lines, reducing everyone’s energy related utility cost. Further, everyone’s health improves when we reduce the amount of hazardous mercury, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter spewing out of power plant smokestacks and furnaces.
Further, residential energy efficiency is the largest single measure source of potential carbon reduction in the nation. Every year WAPs alone cut America’s climate pollution by two million metric tons4. In total, residential efficiency can account for as much as 550 million metric tons of CO25, equivalent emissions reductions annually by 2050 (equal to6 the combined electric power emissions of California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Virginia in 2016).
Green jobs are energy efficiency jobs
In addition to the environment, health and cost saving benefits of investing in energy efficiency, there are job7 and economic development8 benefits that provide opportunities for families. For every dollar invested in energy efficiency for low income families, two dollars are put back into the economy through energy savings and increased income from job creation. In fact, energy efficiency is a labor intensive industry that already accounts for more than 2.2 million jobs across the nation. Ten times more than oil and gas drilling, and thirty times more than coal mining.
These include direct jobs for contractors hired to implement efficiency measures in the home, indirect “supply-chain” jobs generated from the purchase and provision of the materials required to complete the projects, and the final boost in economic activity from the increased combined expenditure of job related income for contractors and energy cost savings for families who receive the services.
Clearly, the affordable housing sector and multi-family housing in particular represents a significant untapped resource for the nation. Energy efficiency is the least costly way for states to meet their pollution reduction targets in the utility sector. According to the EPA, “Demand-side energy efficiency is an important, cost-effective, proven strategy that states are already widely using and which can substantially and cost-effectively lower CO emissions from the power sector9. Energy Efficiency can be more than a lifeline for poor families—it’s a smart investment in energy efficiency that creates local jobs, eliminates the need for expensive new power plants, reduces pollution and saves money for taxpayers nationwide. The Clean Power Plan and the Clean Energy Incentive program are an opportunity to make smart decisions about our energy future, to benefit consumers, workers, our public health and environment. Through the Clean Power Plan, climate action becomes more than a necessity it is an opportunity to build economies, provide well-paying year-round jobs for families and improve the health of nation’s people.
What you can do to get involved
- Submit comments to the EPA supporting the Clean Power Plan. The EPA is accepting comments on the proposal to repeal the CPP until 16 January. Comments will be accepted online, by email, fax or snail mail. Make sure your voice is heard and join us in letting the EPA know that being the only nation on earth to reject the scientific consensus on climate change is unacceptable. That backward view does not represent us and we must demand action.
- EPA is holding a public hearing on 28-29 November to hear testimony on the proposal to repeal the CPP. Request that EPA hold further hearings to hear from a wider constituency of people on the CPP and the necessity for climate action.
- Support or demand your city or state implement local actions to address climate change and expand clean energy to low income families.
1. 80 FR 648312
9. U.S. EPA¸ Fact Sheet: Components of the Clean Power Plan Setting State Goals to Cut Carbon Pollution, https://archive.epa.gov/epa/cleanpowerplan/fact-sheet-components-clean-p…