On June 2, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed long-awaited guidelines (known as “rules”) to reduce greenhouse gas-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a major sector involved in these emissions: existing power plants. This “Clean Power Plan” is designed to be a flexible proposal to “ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation, and strengthen the economy,” according to the EPA.
This is the first time that EPA has proposed to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. EPA has set a goal of reducing emissions by 30% nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030, with “meaningful progress” by 2020. States must submit their plans to EPA by June 30, 2016, and the agency must approve or disapprove each state’s plan within 12 months.
In the coming months, EPA will be listening to feedback and seeking new ideas about the best ways to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. You can get more information about the plan here: http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan. If you have the interest and a lot of time, you can view the entire plan by clicking on this link: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/20140602proposal-cleanpowerplan.pdf.
Some major points from EPA’s fact sheet about the proposed plan include these:
- Our climate is changing, and we’re feeling the dangerous and costly effects right now.
- Average temperatures have risen in most states since 1901, with 7 of the 10 warmest years on record having occurred since 1998.
- Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion.
- Although there are limits at power plants for other pollutants like arsenic and mercury, there are currently no national limits on carbon.
- Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
- Children, the elderly, and the poor are most vulnerable to a range of climate-related health effects, such as those related to heat stress, air pollution, and extreme weather events.
- The EPA estimates that implementing the plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels, and will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55-$93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700-6,600 premature deaths and 140,000-150,000 asthma attacks in children.
- Implementing the plan will make homes and businesses more efficient, shrinking electricity bills by an estimated 8 percent in 2030.
- It will keep the United States—and more importantly businesses—at the forefront of a global movement to produce and consume energy in a better, more sustainable way.