Kate Sheppard for the Huffington Post:
The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new standards on Monday, calling for a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030.
The regulations are the first of their kind for the fleet of existing power plants, which currently produce 39 percent of U.S. emissions. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy described the rules in further detail at a press conference Monday morning.
McCarthy emphasized the problems stemming from carbon pollution, which "supercharges risks not just to our health -- but to our communities, our economy, and our way of life."
"For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate," she said, mentioning potential benefits in business, innovation and investment.
She continued: "The science is clear. The risks are clear. And the high costs of climate inaction keep piling up."
The rules direct states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030, using emissions from 2005 as a baseline. The rules are expected to cut emissions 25 percent by 2020. The agency says the rules will provide the country $90 billion in climate and health benefits, and avoid hospitalizations due to health concerns such as asthma.
But the EPA is giving states flexibility in how to meet those standards. States can direct power plants to cut emissions directly, either by switching to a fuel source with lower carbon emissions, such as natural gas, or by making upgrades to equipment or efficiency. States can also meet the standards by increasing the amount of energy drawn from renewable sources such as solar, wind or hydropower.
McCarthy highlighted the fact that states get to determine how to meet those standards in her address Monday morning. "The glue that holds this plan together -- and the key to making it work -- is that each state's goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever way works best for them," she said.
The administration had previously released rules for new power plants, which will essentially require plants to burn natural gas, or have technology installed that can capture and sequester carbon dioxide.
President Barack Obama did not appear at the press conference, but he touted the new rules in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
"We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water," Obama said. "But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it's not safe, and it doesn't make sense."
These rules have been in the works for some time. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act if it finds those emissions could "reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The Obama EPA issued an endangerment finding in 2009, and proceeded first with regulation of emissions from cars and trucks before moving to power plants, by far the biggest source of emissions in the U.S. In a major climate address at Georgetown University last June, Obama directed the EPA to produce rules for existing power plants by June 2014.
Read the rest at the Huffington Post.
Photo: A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant near Pittsburgh, on September 24, 2013. (Jeff Swensen / Getty Images)