Update: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has announced the new emissions regulations with the goal of getting states to comply actually moved to 2017, the year after President Obama leaves office.
“The glue that holds this plan together — and the key to making it work — is that each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever works best for them,” said McCarthy.
The speed on the implementation of this program is being called “modest,” according to the AP, but the time will be necessary to work out the details.
Power plants are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the country, creating one-third of the pollution the country emits into the environment. The use of coal in energy supply has been reduced from 50 percent to 40 percent with the growing use of gas and renewable energy. Power plants have reduced carbon dioxide emissions from 13 percent since 2005.
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to announce today new regulations that will cut the emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 standards by the year 2030. The new regulation is directed at US coal plants; there are about 600 of them.
“If it withstands an expected onslaught of legal and legislative attacks, experts say that it could close hundreds of the plants and also lead, over the course of decades, to the systemic changes to the American electricity industry including transformations in how power is generated and used,” reports The New York Times.
President Obama is using executive authority to get the new regulation in place. A bill was proposed in Congress during his first term and failed to pass. Obama has addressed climate change and the environment throughout his presidency and has faced opposition every step of the way.
To meet these new regulations, states will have options, including building new green energy sources (wind and solar, for instance) and joining “cap and trade” programs in which carbon emissions are paid for. Compliance will be required by 2016. In cutting carbon dioxide this deeply, the US will also be living up to its promise, made in a 2009 United Nations accord, to cut greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050. Also, remarks the Times, it will add to President Obama’s legacy as his time in office begins to wind down.
The new regulation will no doubt also become a political issue for those running for office in this year’s midterm elections, with Republicans (many of whom will no doubt oppose the measure) using it to hit Democrats who support it. Cost will be an issue, with the question of whether consumers will have to pay more for power and a report from the US Chamber of Commerce saying the measure could cost the gross domestic product (GDP) $50 billion annually. And in states like West Virginia and Kentucky where the coal industry is large, there will be the issue of jobs.
“Although the Obama administration has reached out to both companies and environmental groups to broadly lay out the rulemaking’s goals, it in recent days tried to keep the proposal’s details quiet in the run-up to Monday’s announcement,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
There will be a period for public comment in which lobbyists, environmental groups and tons of others are expected to chime in with their thoughts on how this regulation should be shaped.
“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But a low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come,” said President Obama during his radio address on Saturday.