Industry and coal states cried foul on June 2 as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new regulations that aim to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The Clean Power Plan proposal, issued under the auspices of the 1970 Clean Air Act, allows for flexibility in allowing states and businesses how to comply. With power plants accounting for about a third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, this is a key component of President Barack Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, an attempt to scale back on environmentally harmful practices.
"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 in a statement announcing the rules. "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."
There are more than 600 coal-fired power plants in the U.S., and the EPA estimated that the rule could generate $55 billion to $93 billion in economic benefits over its lifetime, in contrast to the $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion that implementing it would cost, according to The New York Times.
A hallmark of the plan lies in its malleability, McCarthy said, which enables states to arrange compliance as they see fit.
“This plan is all about flexibility,” she said in remarks at the press conference announcing the plan. “That’s what makes it ambitious, but achievable. That’s how we can keep our energy affordable and reliable. 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.”
But while the EPA cried foul air, industry cried just plain foul.
“Clearly, it is designed to materially damage the ability of conventional energy sources to provide reliable and affordable power, which in turn can inflict serious damage on everything from household budgets to industrial jobs,” attorney Scott Segal of Bracewell & Giuliani, a law firm that represents coal companies and plans to sue over the rule, told The New York Times.
But the plan, McCarthy said, will do anything but.
"Efficiency is a win for our planet and our pocketbooks. And given the astronomical price we pay for climate inaction, the most costly thing we can do; is to do nothing,” McCarthy said. “The bottom line is: We have never—nor will we ever—have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.”