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Report: Cuts To Power Plant Emissions Exceed Clean Power Plan Goals

Former President Barack Obama, 2011 (National Defense University/Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. has not only met targets set by the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions at power plants — it’s exceeded them. That’s according to a new report by the Environmental Integrity Project which looked at data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carbon emissions at power plants in the U.S. have gone down by 38 percent since 2005 levels — that's six percentage points more than the target set by the Clean Power Plan. Even though Indiana ranks fifth in the most power plant emissions in the country, it has still cut emissions in half since 2005. 

The report shows a lot of the emissions reductions have come from coal plant retirements. Eric Schaeffer is the executive director for the Environmental Integrity Project. He said utilities have shifted away from coal and toward cheaper, less polluting sources like natural gas and renewables.

And while President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan was stalled in court, Schaeffer said coal plants faced deadlines to comply with other environmental laws — like requiring scrubbers, wastewater treatment upgrades, and cleaning up coal ash. Those costs made coal an even less viable option for utilities. 

“Which is why a lot of the progress we've made, as far as reducing carbon emissions, has actually come to in the last four or five years," he said.

Schaeffer said energy use in the U.S. also hasn’t changed much in the past decade — likely due to energy efficiency and the fact that some manufacturing businesses moved overseas. 

Though achieving climate goals set by the Biden administration will be more challenging, Schaeffer said sometimes it’s useful to look back.

“And realize that, hey, we've actually made a lot of progress over the last few years. And we can do this, you know, we've shown that we can do it," he said.

Contact reporter Rebecca at or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.