US unveils new plans to cut power plant pollution
02 June 2014
On June 2, the US administration unveiled its new climate change strategy which is designed to significantly reduce the country’s carbon emissions. The draft regulation mandates a 30% cut in carbon emissions at fossil fuel-burning power plants by 2030, and will hit coal-fired energy plants the hardest.
The 645-page plan, expected to be finalised next year, is the centrepiece of President Barack Obama's climate change agenda, and a step that the administration hopes will get other countries to act when negotiations on a new international treaty resume next year.
"We have a moral obligation to act," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, in announcing the plan.
The draft regulation sidesteps Congress, where Democrats have in the past failed to pass legislation to limit emissions.
Under the plan, carbon emissions would be reduced 30% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. The proposal sets off a complex regulatory process in which the 50 states will each determine how to meet customised targets set by the EPA.
States will have until 2017 to submit a plan to cut power plant pollution, and 2018 if they join with other states to tackle the problem, according to the EPA's proposal. While some states will be allowed to emit more and others less, overall the reduction will be 30% nationwide. If a state refuses to create a plan, the EPA can make its own.
The options include making power plants more efficient, reducing the frequency at which coal-fired power plants supply power to the grid, and investing in more renewable, low-carbon sources of energy. They also can set up pollution-trading markets as some states already have done to offer more flexibility in how plants cut emissions.
The Obama administration claimed the changes would produce jobs, cut electricity bills and save thousands of lives thanks to cleaner air.
The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal could transform the power sector, which currently relies on coal for nearly 38% of the electricity it generates.
The plan has come under attack from business groups and many Republican lawmakers as well as Democrats from coal mining states like West Virginia.
But the plan is less restrictive than some had feared, with targets arguably easier to reach because carbon emissions had already fallen by about 10% by 2013 from the 2005 baseline level, partly due to retirement of coal plants in favour of cleaner-burning natural gas.