The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. Development of EPA’s proposed standard was required by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling ordering the agency to move forward with regulations of green house gases.
After taking office in 2009, President Obama – prompted by the Supreme Court decision affirming that the Clean Air Act covered greenhouse gases – directed DOT and EPA to speed development of auto fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards on a national basis. The previous Bush Administration had declined to do so, leading to lawsuits from environmental groups, potentially causing chaos and economic harm to automakers, as well as hurting the U.S. economy.
EPA in 2009 determined that “greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.” Tougher national fuel economy standards ensued. Now it’s the power industry’s turn. Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit, which comes from burning fossil fuels.
“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.”
The proposed standard only applies to power plants built in the future, and does not apply to existing plants already operating or ones that will start construction during the next 12 months.
“While we would have preferred that Congress enact legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA took an important step today in addressing the significant environmental threat posed by climate change, said Ralph Izzo, chairman of Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE: PEG), a utility with $12 billion in annual revenues.
“The Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner,” said Izzo.
EPA said the standard is “flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants.”
The proposed standards will be part of the contentious presidential election debate now well underway. Last year, the House Republican majority brought 191 votes to the floor aimed at weakening environmental and public health regulations. Republicans attacked the Clean Air Act and new rules to cut pollution from factories, cars, power plants and other sources.
“This rule is a dramatic overreach and a heavy blow to one of America’s richest natural resources – coal – that the President once heralded but now ignores. Once again, there is an enormous gap between the President’s rhetoric and his actions,” said Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
EPA said the proposed standards could be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Even without today’s action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard.
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