EPA rule would reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30%

The Obama administration on Monday proposed landmark rules to reduce heat-trapping pollution from power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The regulation, to be finalized next year, represents the strongest action yet by the Environmental Protection Agency to confront climate change. The nation’s some 600 coal-fired power plants are its largest source of carbon dioxide, which scientists have linked to a warming planet.

“This is not just about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said at a news conference in Washington, D.C. “This is about protecting our health and our homes. This is about protecting local economies and jobs.”

Already Texas officials are lining up against the plan, with 29 members of the state’s congressional delegation — Republicans and Democrats — voicing concern in a letter to the EPA. They say the rules could drive up electricity bills, threaten reliability and lead to job losses in a state that pumps far more carbon dioxide into the air than any other.

But environmentalists note that Texas already is shifting closer to Obama’s goals. Last year, 63 percent of the state’s electricity came from sources other than coal.

“There’s no state in a better position to cut carbon emissions and benefit from clean energy than Texas,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter. “We are national leaders in producing clean, low-cost wind power, and every month we see clean energy powering more and more of our economy.”
The EPA plan comes a month after the National Climate Assessment found that the entire nation feels the warming effects of greenhouse gases. Texas, for one, has become hotter and drier, while its coast has grown increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels and hurricanes.

The regulation would give states broad flexibility to meet the reduction targets.

Under the rules, states and utilities could reach beyond a coal plant’s fences for emissions reductions, instead of looking for them at each facility, as is done with other air pollutants. The external measures include improving energy efficiency and generating more electricity from wind and other carbon-free sources.

States also could create trading programs in which companies could buy and sell pollution credits to comply with tightening emissions limits.