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EPA’s Proposed Rule for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Power Plants is a Good Opening Bid

June 7, 2014

Nearly a year ago, the Obama Administration released the President’s Climate Action Plan reaffirming the U.S. commitment to reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. This week, EPA proposed the second pillar in that plan, a carbon pollution rule for existing fossil power plants (the so called ESPS) following the proposed rule for new fossil plants proposed last fall. When finalized and sustained from legal and political attacks, these regulations will begin to put the U.S. on a path towards the low-carbon energy system necessary to meet the nation’s mid-century goal.  Together, the rules can provide a spur to innovation, commercialization, and wide-scale deployment of cleaner energy technologies by sending a market signal that uncontrolled carbon pollution from the power system is no longer acceptable.

EPA’s proposal for existing power plants represents an excellent opening bid by the Administration. Analysis by the NorthBridge Group, commissioned by CATF and presented in our “Power Switch” report, confirms that the significant reductions EPA has proposed can be achieved at minimal cost and without significant economic disruption.  In fact, the lion’s share of EPA’s proposed interim target can be achieved simply by displacing electric generation from the highest-emitting coal plants with electricity from underutilized natural gas plants in operation today.  Consistent with CATF’s analysis in our “Power Switch” report, EPA found that the regulations would also save the lives of thousands of Americans from premature deaths due to air pollution and avoid tens of thousands of asthma attacks.

These regulations — along with EPA’s recent New Source Performance Standards for new power plants and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) — represent a solid victory for both climate and public health, the realization of CATF’s founding mission of achieving multi-pollutant regulations on power plants.

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