The False Federalism of EPA's Clean Power Plan

46 Pages Posted: 10 May 2015

See all articles by Jason Scott Johnston

Jason Scott Johnston

University of Virginia School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: May 8, 2015


This paper explicates the four building blocks underlying emission standard guidelines in the U.S. EPA’s proposed clean power plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. electric power sector. It critically analyzes the methodology by which EPA has assessed the cost and effectiveness of each building block. This explication of the four building blocks reveals that the clean power plan is fundamentally inconsistent with how Congress has allocated state versus the federal regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. Under the CAA vision of federalism, the federal EPA’s presumed centralized expertise in matters of climate change policy would be coupled with a productive delegation of authority to state regulators to utilize their superior knowledge of state power sectors in finding ways to reduce CO2 emissions. Under the clean power plan, the EPA has set state-specific CO2 emission reduction targets on the basis of the stylized facts of estimated average state performance. Thus rather than standards based on federal expertise, implemented by state regulators with state-specific knowledge, the clean power plan sets standards based on federal guesswork about state realities that may leave state regulators with few feasible or cost effective compliance options.

Suggested Citation

Johnston, Jason Scott, The False Federalism of EPA's Clean Power Plan (May 8, 2015). Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 16, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 29, Available at SSRN: or

Jason Scott Johnston (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics