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EPA proposes rule to cut carbon emissions by 30%

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has announced new regulations under the Obama Administration;s Climate Action Plan.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has announced new regulations under the Obama Administration;s Climate Action Plan.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft rule aimed at regulating carbon emissions in hundreds of fossil-fired power plants throughout the United States. The proposed rule mandates that power plants cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2030 from levels seen in 2006.

“That’s like canceling out annual carbon pollution from two thirds of all cars and trucks in America,” says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “And if you add up what we’ll avoid between now and 2030 – it’s more than double the carbon pollution from every power plant in America in 2012.”

More significant, though, is that the rule seeks to strike a balance between the interests of environmentalist and the nation’s utility industry. The former wants an ambitious overall target, while the latter wants flexibility, a long compliance timeline and an earlier base-year calculation from which to meet the goal. Since carbon emissions have dropped since 2005, the overall reduction proposed is smaller than it would have been had the EPA used a more recent year for a baseline.

One option proposed by the EPA is for each state to have a different reduction standard with the national average at 25% by 2020 and 30% by 2030. Another option is for a 24% national average reduction in carbon emissions by 2025, based on the same base year of 2005. Between now and June of 2015, the EPA will take comments on what plan it should finalize.

Once the rule is enacted, states will be asked to submit implementation plans by June 2016, but have the option to extend that deadline by one year. States can decide how to meet the reductions – either by expanding renewable-energy generation, working with other states to create regional plans, or investing in or creating new energy-efficiency programs.

Of course, not everyone is pleased with the new rule. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released a report saying it would cost the economy $50 billion a year.

However, even though the EPA estimates that utilities would spend as much as $8.8 billion a year to comply, the cost would be outweighed by the economic benefits to public health and climate to the tune of $55 billion - $93 billion in 2030. Also, upwards of 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 asthma attacks in children would be avoided according to the EPA.

For more information about the new draft rule, click here.

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