EPA greehouse gas emission chart

A year ago, President Obama put the electricity industry on notice and said that he would implement some sort of limits on carbon emissions. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a proposed rule for cleaner electricity generating plants and it would go a long way towards making the "long tailpipe" of electric vehicles even cleaner.

Officially called, "Carbon pollution emission guidelines for existing stationary sources: electric utility generating units" (and "Clean Power Plan" for short), the proposed rule basically tells the 50 states to come up with their own ways to reduce CO2 emissions. If it all works as planned, the changes will cut power sector carbon emission by 30 percent nationwide by 2030 (compared to the 2005 levels). This will prevent "up to 6,600 premature deaths" and offer "up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits" all while cutting electricity bills by "roughly 8 percent." Those are the EPA's prediction, anyway. There is no mention of plug-in vehicles in the 645-page proposal (get the PDF here), but if you're making the electric grid cleaner, then EVs get cleaner as well.

"The administration for all intents and purposes is creating America's next energy crisis" – American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

Senior EPA officials said the proposal contains "sensible and reasonable" things that can be done to clean up the air and that "we have a number of years to come to an agreement." Those years might be required because Republicans and some Democrats have already signaled their displeasure with the rules and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) quickly released a statement saying that, "If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes is creating America's next energy crisis."

There are supporters of the proposed rules, too. The president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ken Kimmell, said in a statement that, "a significant opportunity for states to make meaningful reductions in their emissions." We've got the full statement from the UCS as well as more from the ACCCE, the Rainforest Action Network and Tom Steyer below. There will be a 120-day comment period full of public hearings once the proposed rule is published in the federal register, so expect to hear more about this in the future.
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EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants

Clean Power Plan is flexible proposal to ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation and strengthen the economy

WASHINGTON – At the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is today releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today's proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source--power plants," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment--our action will sharpen America's competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs."

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

With the Clean Power Plan, EPA is proposing guidelines that build on trends already underway in states and the power sector to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting. This proposal follows through on the common-sense steps laid out in President Obama's Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:

Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days-providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

The Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. The proposal provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situation. States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs. It allows them to work alone to develop individual plans or to work together with other states to develop multi-state plans.

Also included in today's proposal is a flexible timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency-with plans due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal.

Since last summer, EPA has directly engaged with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others. The data, information and feedback provided during this effort helped guide the development of the proposal and further confirmed that states have been leading the way for years in saving families and businesses money through improving efficiency, while cleaning up pollution from power plants. To date, 47 states have utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs. Together, the agency believes that these programs represent a proven, common-sense approach to cutting carbon pollution-one in which electricity is generated and used as efficiently as possible and which promotes a greater reliance on lower-carbon power sources.

Today's announcement marks the beginning of the second phase of the agency's outreach efforts. EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings on the proposed Clean Power Plan during the week of July 28 in the following cities: Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh. Based on this input, EPA will finalize standards next June following the schedule laid out in the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

In 2009, 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. Taking steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants will protect children's health and will move our nation toward a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations, while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth.

Fact sheets and details about the proposed rule available at: http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

More information on President Obama's Climate Action Plan: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change

Video on today's announcement from Administrator Gina McCarthy: http://www.epa.gov/


EPA Moves to Curb Emissions from Existing Power Plants

New Data Shows Renewables, Energy Efficiency Could Dramatically Lower Emissions

WASHINGTON (June 2, 2014) – In a historic step, the Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants fueled by coal and natural gas, with new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) finding that there are opportunities for the standard to achieve even deeper and cost-effective emissions reductions from the power sector. The proposed standards, a centerpiece of President Obama's climate action plan, would cut emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"The standard EPA announced today signals to the world that the United States is serious about cutting dangerous heat trapping carbon dioxide from its power plants," said UCS President Ken Kimmell, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and former Board Chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). "With the flexibility to include renewable energy and energy efficiency in state plans to meet these new standards, the proposal presents a significant opportunity for states to make meaningful reductions in their emissions."

He noted that a similar approach of limits on carbon emissions and expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency has worked well in nine Northeast states and California. Massachusetts and other Northeast states participating in RGGI cut carbon emissions from their power plants by about 40 percent since 2005, and are projected to reach approximately a 50 percent cut by 2020 while benefiting from the investment of millions of dollars in carbon revenues. In Massachusetts alone, the state has created over 80,000 new jobs in clean energy in part because of its investments in energy efficiency and renewables.

"The experience with RGGI shows that states can cut carbon far more cost-effectively if they work together, rather than going it alone," said Kimmell. "Under the proposed new rule, states can pool their resources to take advantage of the falling cost and wide availability of renewable energy resources and energy efficiency to meet the carbon standard affordably and reliably."

Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist in the UCS Climate and Energy Program and a co-author of the new UCS analysis, said that the new standard has the potential to be a climate game-changer. "We look forward to submitting additional information that demonstrates how we can do even more," she said.

The new UCS analysis found that an ambitious power plant standard, accompanied by strong renewable and efficiency policies, could cut power sector carbon emissions by 40 percent below current (2013) levels by 2020 and by more than 50 percent by 2030. Renewable energy and energy efficiency would play a significant role in delivering these reductions while continuing to provide cost-effective and reliable power to consumers.

She also noted that additional policies that drive renewable energy deployment and energy are critical over the next 10 to 15 years to help deliver deep reductions cost-effectively and avoid an over-reliance on natural gas, which comes with serious climate, health, consumer, and environmental risks.

"While the power plant carbon standard is a tremendous step forward, ultimately we will need to make much deeper cuts in emissions to help limit worsening climate impacts, something the administration cannot do alone," said Cleetus. "Congress must step up and enact legislation that will lead to deep cuts in emissions throughout the economy."

To learn more about the new UCS analysis of power sector emissions reductions from a carbon standard, see Cleetus's blog post here. An infographic on the UCS analysis can be found here.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.


RAN Responds to Proposed Federal Carbon Pollution Standards

This morning, June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new carbon pollution standards for power plants, the centerpiece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan.

Rainforest Action Network's Climate Program Director, Amanda Starbuck, issued the following statement:

We welcome the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Setting the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution is an essential and long overdue step to address global warming.

Communities across the nation are already seeing and feeling the impacts of global warming, from increased health risks like asthma attacks and lung disease, to devastating extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy and wildfires across the American West. The science is clear: inaction will only increase these deadly and costly threats.

This is exactly why communities from Chicago to North Carolina, from New England to New Mexico, are fighting to shut down the polluting power plants in their neighborhoods.

To be clear, the proposed carbon pollution standard is just one step. To keep our climate stable, we must rapidly shift our energy production away from the highest-polluting fossil fuels and accelerate our transition to truly clean, renewable energy generation.

The proposed rule is not yet enough to slow global warming and not yet enough to inspire the world to make the necessary deep cuts in climate pollution. That is why we will be working hard the next year to include much deeper cuts in the final rule.

We stand with the majority of Americans who want to see strong action from the government to address global warming and set limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America's fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. We are working to shut down coal-fired power plants by persuading the country's largest banks to stop funding coal and start putting their money into clean energy solutions that don't cause air pollution, drinking water contamination, cancer, asthma or climate change. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org


STATEMENT BY TOM STEYER

"Climate change is a real and present danger. This Congress has failed in its most basic responsibility to protect the health and welfare of the American people from this grave threat. Fortunately, a previous Congress had the wisdom and foresight to pass the Clean Air Act, giving the Environmental Protection Agency the responsibility to curb pollution that endangers the public. President Obama and Administrator McCarthy today exercised that authority appropriately, thoughtfully, and boldly.

"For far too long, coal-fired power plants have had free reign to dump carbon pollution into our atmosphere. The Administration's plan to end this carbon pollution loophole will establish a level playing field for advanced energy solutions that are cleaner, affordable and more secure. Now, more than ever, the United States must be a global leader in addressing climate change. As the centerpiece of the President's Climate Action Plan, today's carbon pollution standards proposal goes a very long way toward establishing that leadership and the President's legacy."


ACCCE on Initial Review of 111(d): EPA Carbon Emissions Rule Misses the Mark

Monday, June 2, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) blasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following initial review of today's proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The costly rule, seen by many as the principal tenet of President Obama's misguided pursuit of a climate legacy, will spur devastating economic impacts including job losses and energy costs.

"If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes is creating America's next energy crisis," said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of ACCCE. "As we predicted, the administration chose political expediency over practical reality as it unveiled energy standards devoid of commonsense and flexibility. These guidelines represent a complete disregard for our country's most vital fuel sources, like American coal, which provides nearly 40 percent of America's power, reliably and affordably."

Filed under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, today's rule is the first-ever set of guidelines proposed by the EPA to states as they create their own carbon emissions protocols for existing power units. In the months leading up to the rule's release, the EPA claimed the standards would allow power plants the adequate time and flexibility needed to meet requirements.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, speaking at IHS's CERAWeek conference in March, said that conventional fuels like coal and natural gas "are going to continue to play a critical role in a diverse U.S. energy mix" and promised that the rule "will not change that" but instead recognize this reality.

Yet, as ACCCE has long cautioned, the proposed rule imposes stringent and potentially unattainable standards on state-based power grids that will leave millions of Americans with higher electric bills and at increased risk for rolling blackouts.

"Sadly, EPA's proposed regulations put America's low- and middle-income families most at risk of paying disproportionately more for energy. Those same families have seen their income dwindle by 22 percent over the last decade while their energy bills have increased by 27 percent," Duncan said. "More so, the rule threatens the energy reliability and economic promise we enjoy today. Only by recognizing the importance of an energy portfolio rich in fuel source diversity will we preserve America's access to stable and affordable power."

Coal continues to be the country's leading fuel source for electricity generation in the U.S. And thanks to the industry's investment of $118 billion, so far, major emissions from coal-fueled power plants have been reduced by nearly 90 percent. The industry plans to invest another $27 billion through 2016 to further deploy clean coal technology and reduce emissions.