EPA's clean power plan: An emerging new cooperative federalism?

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Abstract

The Obama Administration attracted significant attention in June 2014 when it proposed widely varying greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets for each state's electricity sector. This article examines the bases for these varying targets, concluding that they may present a new model of cooperative federalism, in two senses. Under cooperative federalism's traditional structure, the federal government is the standard-setting body and states are the implementers of those standards. Under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, however, the federal government uses state policies to provide the content for the federal standards, essentially "federalizing" state environmental policies. The Plan also pegs state emissions targets to a state's capacity to reduce emissions, as opposed to a state's contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations. EPA's approach unquestionably enhances states as laboratories of democracy and addresses collective active problems. It also facilitates the economic and political feasibility of climate-change mitigation efforts. Nevertheless, for states and environmental policymaking going forward, it may also present issues of fairness and perverse incentives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-474
Number of pages23
JournalPublius
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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