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EPA launches first limits on U.S. carbon emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, announced Monday, will cut carbon pollution in the United States from the power sector by 870 million tons, or 32 percent below 2005 levels, in 2030.

Power plants are the largest contributors to climate change in the U.S., making up about one-third of all carbon pollution emissions.

“We’re proud to finalize our historic Clean Power Plan,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It will give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve.”

McCarthy said the U.S. is leading by example, showing the world that climate action is an economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth.

She said the feedback the agency has received indicates the plan is achievable.

States can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses, and utilities, McCarthy said.

Carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, she said, improving public health each year. The plan accelerates the transition to clean energy.

By 2030, the plan will cut carbon pollution from the power generators by nearly a third and additional reductions will come from pollutants that can create soot and smog, which means significant health benefits for the American people, she said.

By 2030, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90 percent lower and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower, compared to 2005 levels.

Americans will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks and spend up to 300,000 more days in the office or the classroom, instead of sick at home. And up to 3,600 deaths will be prevented.

The EPA’s plan reflects public input, including more than 4.3 million public comments on the proposal and hundreds of meetings with stakeholders.

McCarthy said it works by building on strategies states and businesses are already using. In 2015, the U.S. uses three times more wind and 20 times more solar energy than it did in 2009, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. 

The rule establishes guidelines for states to follow in developing and carrying out their plans.

The EPA is proposing a model rule states can adopt, as well as a federal plan that the EPA will put in place if a state fails to submit an adequate plan.

Both the proposed model rule and federal plan focus on emissions trading mechanisms to make sure utilities have broad flexibility to reach their carbon pollution reduction goals. The EPA also finalized standards to limit carbon pollution from new, modified, and reconstructed power plants.

The final rule, fact sheets, and details about the plan, the final standards for new, modified and reconstructed sources, and the proposed federal plan are available at: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan.

Critics of the plan call it too expensive and detrimental to areas that mine coal. Legal challenges are expected.

Along with the merits and fears about the plan, commentators are also remarking on what it means to Pres. Barack Obama’s legacy. See the New York Times article, “Obama to Unveil Tougher Environmental Plan With His Legacy in Mind,” for details.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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