Clean Power what? Most Americans haven’t heard of climate rule

By Elizabeth Harball | 05/05/2016 08:52 AM EDT

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, considered by many to be the most far-reaching climate regulation ever set forth by the U.S. government, has barely registered in the minds of most American voters.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, considered by many to be the most far-reaching climate regulation ever set forth by the U.S. government, has barely registered in the minds of most American voters.

A new national poll found 7 in 10 voters have heard "just a little or nothing at all" about EPA’s regulation to rein in carbon emissions from power plants.

In a different poll of Texas voters that was also released yesterday, 85 percent of respondents surveyed had not "seen, read or heard of a federal policy called the Clean Power Plan."


Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, which conducted the national poll, said it didn’t shock him that EPA’s climate rule hasn’t made waves among average Americans.

"It’s sort of blandly titled," said Kull. "I don’t think the reporting on it has been very extensive. It hasn’t gotten into the elections, and so I don’t find it so surprising."

Texas Clean Energy Coalition chairman and former Republican state Sen. Kip Averitt, whose group conducted the Texas poll, had a similar reaction.

"It’s one of those issues for inside the ballpark," Averitt said. "I think most citizens on the street are not aware of regulatory proceedings and judicial proceedings at that level."

The national poll, which was backed by the group Voice of the People, found that the majority of Americans — 7 in 10 — feels reducing greenhouse gases from energy production should be a "high priority."

Opinions on the issue were split along partisan lines, however, with 91 percent of Democrats polled saying reducing greenhouse gases should be a high priority while only 44 percent of Republicans said it should be a high priority.

When they learn more, most Dems like it

The national poll was conducted among 4,394 registered voters between April 16 and 26 of this year and reported a 1.6-point margin of error. Respondents were recruited by telephone or mail, and the survey was conducted online.

The Program for Public Consultation provided respondents with details about the Clean Power Plan’s costs, including an estimate that the regulation could initially increase the price of electricity by about 3 percent and an assessment that it could cause job losses in sectors like the coal industry. It also provided information about the regulation’s potential health benefits from U.S. EPA, including an estimate that it could lead to 3,600 fewer premature deaths by 2030.

Having been given more background information on the Clean Power Plan, 69 percent of respondents favored the Clean Power Plan. But this support also was split along party lines, with 89 percent of Democrats in favor, but less than half — 47 percent — of Republicans in favor.

Kull acknowledged that support for policies like the Clean Power Plan is inconsistent among voters. But he argued it is "striking" that when voters were asked about some specific steps to reduce greenhouse gases, such as tax incentives for renewable energy or regulations requiring power companies to increase renewable energy use, "there’s rather robust bipartisan agreement that those things should happen."

The national survey found that the majority of both GOP and Democratic voters support these policies.

The Texas survey, conducted among 801 voters this April with a 3.5-point margin of error, was backed by the Texas Clean Energy Coalition, which describes itself as "dedicated to building a clean energy economy that creates jobs and economic growth in the Lone Star State."

That poll also found the majority of Republican respondents — 64 percent — oppose the Clean Power Plan, while 88 percent of Democrats in Texas support the rule.

However, the poll also determined there is strong support for the increased use of "clean energy" in Texas, including 78 percent of Republicans polled. Over 90 percent of respondents said they considered wind and solar "clean energy," and 70 percent said natural gas falls under this definition, as well.

The Texas poll also found 6 in 10 Republican voters prefer that the state submit its own carbon reduction strategy to EPA under the Clean Power Plan rather than becoming subject to a federal implementation plan. Texas is among the states suing to challenge the Clean Power Plan, and the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has indicated the state is not currently working on a implementation strategy for the rule.

Averitt said he believes it is "good politics and it’s reasonable" for the state not to develop a plan while litigation proceeds. But he also said the poll’s results show that "rather than have the federal government do it, the folks in Texas would prefer that Texas has their own plan that accomplishes the goals."

"There’s a natural resentment to federal intervention here," Averitt said.