Skip to main content

Our Work

Power Plants

Mitigating the significant climate change and public health impacts of the U.S.’s fossil-fueled power sector.

CATF’s team of lawyers, technical advisors, and policy analysts works to ensure the adoption of U.S. air emission standards on U.S. fossil fuel (coal, oil, and gas)-fired power plants, to zero-out power sector carbon dioxide emissions and protect public health. We advance our goals by advocating for advanced pollution control-based regulatory requirements that create incentives for further improvements in pollution control technology and energy systems design.

Coal plant pollution

The latest in power plants

Our Goal

Ensure the adoption of U.S. air emission standards on U.S. fossil-fueled power plants to zero-out U.S. power sector carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and protect public health

About our efforts

We seek to reduce air pollution and fight climate change using existing legal authorities.

Our impact in power plants

Scope of Work

  • Research: CATF works with our partners at the American Lung Association and with university public health researchers to create materials describing and illustrating the linkages between power plant air emissions and public health damages, including between fine particulate matter and mortality.
  • Advocacy, Education, and Outreach: CATF’s advocacy and educational work promotes regulatory solutions for and builds awareness of the health and climate impacts from fossil-fueled plant pollution.
  • Legislation: CATF scopes and drafts deep decarbonization policy and legislation aimed at the turnover of the existing highly polluting fossil-fueled power plant fleet.
  • Rule Making/Litigation: CATF provides legal and technical expertise to promote and defend a suite of climate and air quality regulations on fossil-fueled power plants, based on public health and climate science, and the legal authority to mitigate or eliminate those impacts. CATF’s attorneys carry our advocacy through the entire regulatory process, including representing other non-profit client public health and environmental organizations across the country in judicial proceedings defending strong rules or challenging ineffectual governmental actions.

Achievements

  • Since our beginnings in 1996, CATF’s advocacy has raised public awareness of and thrown a spotlight on the nation’s power sector generally as a major source of air and climate pollution and related public health damages.
  • CATF helped win and defend U.S. EPA rules reducing coal plant air toxic emissions by 80-96% in 2017 compared with 2010 levels, through the Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Our advocacy on EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), and on ozone implementation rules have also contributed to air pollution reductions that are saving 20,000+ lives per year. CATF’s attorneys also recently helped restore public health science as the basis for EPA power plant regulations.
  • CATF helped win and defend EPA’s Power Plant Carbon Pollution Standards, under which no new coal-fired electric power plants can be built without meeting strict carbon dioxide limits. Economic pressures resulting from these regulations, and from low renewable and natural gas prices, helped retire more than one third of U.S. coal-fired power plant capacity over the last decade.
  • U.S. power sector carbon dioxide emissions continue to decline as utilities see tighter carbon dioxide standards on new and existing coal- and gas-fired power plants as inevitable.
  • CATF’s work in coalition with other environmental groups and with energy sector players ensures broad backing for our initiatives.

Current Projects

See what we’re working on

U.S. Power Plant Air and Climate Regulation

Coal and natural gas-fired power plants are still the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. economy. The power sector also is among the largest industrial contributors to deadly particulate matter, ozone smog, and air toxics. While CATF helped win aggressive regulations under the Obama Administration that have resulted in drastic reductions in these emissions, there is more to be done. Public health science supports lower ambient air quality standards for both particulate matter and ozone-causing pollution, and advances in pollution control and abatement technologies support tightened standards for power plant air toxics and carbon dioxide. CATF is actively working on all these regulatory fronts, while continuing to defend in court our wins supporting EPA’s authority to regulate all aspects of power plant climate and air pollution. We press for change by representing client non-profit environmental and public health organizations in administrative actions before EPA and the courts, and through outreach, collaboration, research, and public education.

Raising Awareness of the Health Impacts of Coal Plant Pollution

CATF works to quantify the health impacts from power plant pollution and demonstrate how regulations that cut emissions can save lives and prevent disease. These impacts are felt most acutely in areas near the plants which are more likely than average to be communities of color or lower-income neighborhoods. CATF’s Toll From Coal is a popular on-line tool that estimates the death and disease from the particulate matter caused by coal plant pollution. Users can click on their local coal plant to see its impacts and access the data by state or zip code. CATF’s accompanying Power Plant Regulation Ticker gives a real-time estimate of the lives saved to date by power plant air quality and climate regulations.

Explore the Toll From Coal

Deep Decarbonization of the U.S. Power Sector by Mid-Century

CATF is advocating policies that would zero out the carbon pollution from the power sector by mid-century by preserving and strengthening the Clean Power Plan and supporting legislative efforts around cap and trade, carbon tax, and/or clean electricity standards at the federal and state levels.

Stay in the know

Sign up to receive the latest content from CATF experts