By Jorge Madrid
For the first time in history, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to limit the carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants. This will slow the growth of the major pollutant responsible for global climate change, which threatens the health and safety of Americans. This new standard will have far-reaching public health impacts and finally put a limit on emissions from the single largest carbon pollution source in America: burning coal for electricity.
The Carbon Pollution Standard directs new power plants that begin construction after the rule is finalized should “meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour.” The typical new coal fired power plant would have to reduce their carbon pollution by 40 to 60 percent. Natural gas power plants should be able to comply with this standard without additional controls.
The proposal was published in the Federal Register today. Now an official comment period begins for the next 60 days in which the public is invited to submit comments to the EPA on this proposed rule. EPA will probably conduct several public meetings in various major cities, too.
This historic proposal comes at a critical juncture, as Nobel Laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently reminded us the scientific evidence of climate change is getting more and more powerful, and that the pace of some effects have been underestimated: “sea level is rising even faster than we thought; the numbers of violent rainstorms have increased faster than we thought.”
The new rule also offers a real chance to protect children and public health, which is why over 120 health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society and others are on record stating:
Climate change is a serious public health issue. As temperatures rise, more Americans will be exposed to conditions that can result in illness and death due to respiratory illness, heat- and weather-related stress and disease carried by insects. These health issues are likely to have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, those with serious health conditions and the most economically disadvantaged.
Prior to the proposed rule, there had been no limit to the amount of CO2 a power plant could emit. The impact of the new rule will be critical, as the U.S. is the second biggest carbon polluters in the world. Existing coal-fired power plants are responsible for about one-third of the U.S.’s total carbon pollution.
This proposal will also have positive effects for the economy, particularly in the clean energy sector, which grew at twice the rate of the overall economy during the peak of the recession (2008-2010), according to analysis by the Brookings Institution. A new report from Pew Environment confirms this growth trend, stating that “clean energy investment continued a near-decade-long rally in 2011, rising 6.5 percent to a record $263 billion” and with half a million new jobs between 2003 and 2010.
Advocates for the coal mining industry and big utility companies have been adamantly resisting the carbon, mercury, and acid rain and smog pollution rules, calling them “a regulatory train wreck.” However, this claim was directly contradicted by the CEOâ€™s of several major power companies, who have acknowledged that they are well prepared for the new EPA rules and have had sufficient time to comply.
John Rowe, CEO of Exelon said:
“The EPA is simply enforcing the requirements of the existing Clean Air Act as the Act has been interpreted by the courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. The last major amendments to that Act are now over 20-years old. Neither the rules nor their implementation should be a surprise to anyone.”
Further, the proposal will also spur innovation and investment in cleaner and more efficient technologies, following the trend that power companies are already taking to modernize their plants. Benjamin Fowke, COO of Xcel Energy states:
“Our proactive steps to reduce emissions through the MERP project in Minnesota and our plans for the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act in Colorado put us in good position to comply with these rules.”
Finally, the protections offered by the new rule enjoy overwhelming public support, as indicated in a bipartisan 2012 national poll conducted for the American Lung Association:
- Nearly three quarters of voters, say that we do not have to choose between air quality and a strong economy â€“ we can achieve both
- A 2-to-1 majority (60 to 31 percent) believe that strengthening safeguards against pollution will create, rather than destroy, jobs by encouraging innovation.
- About two-thirds of voters (66 percent) favor EPA updating air pollution standards by setting stricter limits.
- 72 percent of voters support new standards for carbon pollution from power plants and support is strong (63 percent) after hearing arguments from both sides of the issue.
Once the proposed rule takes effect, the EPA will have taken a critical step to protect the health and security of all American Families. These first-ever national industrial carbon pollution standards for power plants will not only prevent gases that are accelerating global warming, it will spur innovation in clean technologies that will lead to more green jobs and reduce smog that triggers asthma attacks and other health consequences. EPA must then take the next step by establishing carbon pollution limits for existing power plants.
Last year, more than 800,000 Americans commented in favor of proposed rules to reduce mercury, lead, and other toxic substances from coal fired power plants. This support helped EPA adopt strict rules that will begin the reduction of these deadly pollutants.
This year, EPA needs to hear that hundreds of thousands of people who support limiting carbon pollution from new power plants to help it resist the millions of dollars of pressure ads and lobbying from big coal and utility companies. Please submit your comment in favor of the carbon pollution limits TODAY by clicking HERE to send EPA your support.
We know that climate science deniers and big polluters will be fighting every day to derail these first ever carbon pollution reductions. We must fight back by showing your support TODAY.