President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan this week, a proposal that would cut carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants for the first time. With power plants being the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., this move by President Obama is the biggest one yet in the work on curbing climate change.
“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “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.”
The proposed rule will rate-based, meaning the standards will be set based on how much CO2 is emitted per megawatt hour of electricity produced, not a straight limit on tons of CO2. This format allows for maximum flexibility for each state, without slowing economic growth. If states prefer, they can opt for a total carbon tonnage limit instead of the rate-based limit.
The EPA estimates that the rule will provide the following benefits:
- 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.
In 2009, President Obama committed to a goal of a 17% reduction in total CO2 emission levels from 2005 levels to 2020 levels. This is a big step towards meeting that goal, however some environmentalists believe even stricter limits are necessary to meet the goal.
There is a 120 comment period during which the EPA will accept any comments on the proposed rules. Additionally, four public hearings will be held during the week July 28th in Denver, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Pittsburgh. This should put the EPA on track to finalize the standards by June of 2015.
For more detailed information on the proposed rule, click here.