President Obama and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made history today when the EPA announced new standards for existing power plants that would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Global Green USA has been working across the country for 20 years to champion clean energy and curb climate change, and we applaud this new Clean Power Plan, the first direct limit on existing power plant emissions.
Today’s announcement has been in the works since June 2013, when President Obama first laid out his Climate Action Plan and directed the EPA to develop clear guidelines under the Clean Air Act for carbon emissions from power plants. Power plants currently account for one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In September 2013, the EPA proposed CO2 emissions limits for new power plants, but did not include the biggest offenders – the older, dirtier coal-fired power plants – until today. The President used his executive authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to issue the regulation without having to rely on Congressional action.
Under the proposed plan, each state receives a specific rate-based CO2 emissions goal and will develop, submit, and implement a strategy to meet this goal through a state-federal partnership. States will have until June 2016 to submit their plan or may opt into the two-step process option if they require more time. This setup provides states the flexibility to develop a plan unique to their situation, allowing each state to use a different mix of energy sources, energy efficiency measures, and demand-side management to meets its target.
This method differs from traditional pollutant regulation under the Clean Air Act, such as sulfur dioxide or mercury, where the EPA sets a discrete limit at the source. The Clean Power Plan instead allows states to choose how to diversify their energy mix. This approach allows each state to find the lowest-cost solution while maintaining a reliable energy supply.
In recent years, we’ve seen the very real effects of climate change in the form of hurricanes, droughts, floods, dramatic heat waves, and other extreme and devastating climate events. Global Green has worked with victims of Hurricane Sandy and Katrina who’ve had their homes and schools destroyed and their lives indelibly changed by climate related disasters. We’ve also spent years advocating for stricter pollution standards that would reduce levels of smog and soot, focused especially on disadvanated communities that live closest to these power plants and suffer from increased rates of asthma and premature death. The President’s proposal will lead to climate and health benefits estimated between $55 and $93 billion in 2030, including preventing up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children by decreasing smog and soot by 25%. Furthermore, by improving energy efficiency and reducing energy demand, the EPA estimates electricity bills nationwide will decrease 8%.
Global Green is encouraged to see the EPA propose a plan that both addresses climate change and improves public health. Power plant pollution often disproportionately affects the health of low-income communities, so we are optimistic that these regulations will start to change this trend. There are also preliminary signs that these regulations will increase pressure on other countries to take similar action around climate change.
While the plan is significant as the first-ever limit on carbon emissions from power plants, the battle is far from over. Under the plan, states can choose to what degree they invest in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures; the plan’s current projections state that “coal and natural gas would remain the two leading sources of electricity generation in the US, with each providing more than 30% of the projected generation.” However we know that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we are working in Los Angeles, New Orleans and across the county to promote policies and programs that create jobs and promote cleaner energy. Our work to advance solar in California is a perfect example of this success, as job growth in the solar sector has outpaced overall job growth by almost five to one. A sustainable clean energy economy is one that creates clean energy jobs to boost the economy and improve public health, rather than continuing to rely on coal and natural gas—and this is the future for which we’ll continue to fight.
The fossil fuel industry is already working to undermine the EPA’s proposal and will continue to put pressure on Washington to weaken the regulations. Join us in standing with President Obama and the EPA.