The EPA today proposed the first mandatory carbon pollution limits for power plants, which could cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
Power plants are the single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions, the main driver behind climate change and also a majority contributor to asthma and other negative health effects.
“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life," said EPA Administer Gina McCarthy in announcing the new rules, written after a lengthy public comment and assessment period.
Environmentalists and climate experts hailed the proposed new rules as a historic step in the fight against climate change.
“Today's announcement that President Obama will use his existing authority to reduce harmful carbon pollution from power plants represents the most important action the U.S. has taken to date to address the devastating impacts of climate change,” said Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and former energy advisor to the White House for the Obama administration.
Bordoff praised the administration’s plan for showing international leadership on climate action and spurring a move to cleaner energy sources.
The new Clean Power Plan will be an economic booster, while also safeguarding human health, McCarthy predicted.
“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America's competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs," she said.
Power plants account for about one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions – the gases causing climate change, according to the EPA, and while nitrogen, sulfur and other emissions have been regulated, carbon pollution has not been.
Over the last decade, the EPA has faced a series of court challenges to its plans to regulate greenhouse gases. But in 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that GHGs did fall under the EPA's purview. Recent rulings by federal courts have generally affirmed the EPA's authority to regulate these gases. In April, the US Supreme Court again cleared the way for regulation of GHGs, voting the agency could legally try to reduce emissions from power plants in states that spew smog across state boundaries.
Public hearings on the new rules will be held this summer at these times and locations:
- July 29, 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center Main Tower Bridge Conference Area, Conference Room B, 61 Forsyth Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303.
- July 29, 2014, Denver, Colorado, at EPA's Region 8 Building, 1595 Wynkoop Street, Denver, Colorado 80202.
- July 31, 2014, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Room 1310, 1000 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222.
- Sometime during the week of July 28, 2014 (details to come) Washington, DC.
All hearings will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.
If the rule wins final approval and compliance by polluters, the EPA predicts that by 2030 it will:
- Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year
- Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
- Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
- Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.
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