U.S. Environment Agency Advances Climate Change Policy

New coal-burning power plants will face tougher limits on emissions in the national strategy to reduce climate change.
New coal-burning power plants will face tougher limits on emissions in the national strategy to reduce climate change.

By Charlene Porter | Staff Writer
20 September 2013

Washington — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed stricter standards for limiting emissions from new power plants September 20, addressing one of the United States’ most significant and concentrated sources of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

An EPA announcement says the proposal marks an important milestone in enactment of the Climate Action Plan unveiled by President Obama in June.

Explaining the power plant proposals in a speech to a Washington audience, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she is following a presidential directive to design domestic policies that send a global message about U.S. commitment to meeting the climate change challenge.

“So that the United States can leverage our action internationally [to] address a global challenge in a global way,” McCarthy said.

The proposal has been crafted on the basis of extensive consultations with industry and the review of more than 2.5 million public comments submitted to the agency by environmental and health groups and other interested parties. The proposed emissions standards will be subject to further public comment and review before becoming law.

The pollution reduction standards will ensure that power plants of the future will be built with clean technologies that limit carbon emissions, the EPA announcement says, in keeping with the Obama administration priority that innovation offers an important gateway to achieving clean air goals.

McCarthy went on the offensive to protect the proposal from the chief criticism that has been leveled at environmental policies since they became a major national issue in the 1970s. The new regulations won’t inhibit economic growth, she said.

“We have proven time after time that setting fair Clean Air Act standards to protect public health does not cause the sky to fall,” McCarthy said. “The economy does not crumble.”

She noted that the renewable energy industry is steadily increasing its energy output and that the U.S. automotive industry is thriving in its adaptation to meet tougher auto emissions standards put in place in 2009.

The tougher power-plant emissions standards are an important regulatory move, McCarthy said, but movement toward lower emissions, less air pollution and a clean fuel economy won’t happen overnight. She saluted the many actions that state and local governments are taking to increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution. She also called on the international community to take action to address “a public health challenge that we all simply cannot afford to avoid any longer.”