By Laura Beans

beansbwThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today proposed carbon emissions standards for new power plants. The Clean Air Act standards are an effort to combat climate change and improve public health, according to the U.S. EPA’s press release. The U.S. EPA has also initiated outreach and direct engagement with state, local and tribal governments as well as industry leaders, nonprofits and other organizations to work towards establishing carbon pollution standards for existing power plants currently in operation.

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“Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”

In 2009, the U.S. EPA 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. Under today’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility, according to the U.S. EPA’s press release.

“Today, the EPA and President Obama have taken the first major step towards fulfilling the president’s Climate Action Plan and protecting our children’s future,” said Micheal Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards will protect Americans from dangerous air pollution, protect our communities from harmful carbon pollution and strengthen our economy with clean energy jobs.”

According to Earthjustice, Americans already have spoken out in record numbers in favor of new carbon pollution standards, submitting more than 3 million comments on a similar proposal previously issued by the U.S. EPA. After the proposed rules are published in the federal register, the public will have 60-days to submit comments.

“We have no hope of warding off more storms like Sandy that are battering our cities, putting out the wildfires that are ravaging the West and putting ourselves on track to stabilizing the climate unless we make a shift to clean energy,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice. “Preventing construction of dirty new power plants is an essential step in the right direction. Moving forward on tackling carbon pollution from existing power plants is also vital.”

Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the U.S., according to the U.S. EPA, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a kiss goodbye to any more power plants like Scherer—the dirtiest of the nation’s dirty power plants—that wreak havoc on our weather patterns and threaten our children’s future,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “This new rule will mean more renewable energy, more energy efficiency and less global warming pollution.”

“Today is a great day for the millions of Americans who expect President Obama to make good on his promise to reduce the global warming pollution that is plaguing our country,” said Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace USA. “Coal executives will beat their tired old drum about a ‘war on coal,’ but the truth is that as clean energy from wind and solar power continue to grow rapidly and get cheaper by the quarter, today’s rule simply codifies a change that’s already well under way: the age of coal is coming to an end.”

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

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