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EPA Proposes Standards For Pollution From New Coal Plants

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed historic new standards to limit industrial carbon pollution from new coal-fired power plants, which is a critical step to protect the health of American children and families. 

Successful advocacy before the courts made today’s landmark action possible. On April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court in the Massachusetts v. EPA case made a precedent-setting ruling which that led to regulation of industrial carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club, and our attorney Howard Fox argued the case before the DC Circuit Court.

EPA’s proposal applies to power plants built in the future. The proposed rule will require any new power plant to average no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt of electricity produced. Most existing U.S. coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt. More from the EPA on today’s announcement can be found here.

This latest proposal is part of the EPA’s ongoing effort to regulate carbon and other global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. The first phase set stricter fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks. Those limits will ultimately save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce global warming pollution by nearly one billion metric tons — the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from 50 million of today’s cars over their lifetime. Later this year they are expected to finalize a second phase of fuel economy standards, one to last through 2025 , that will reduce oil consumption and pollution by even greater amounts.

Even though these carbon pollution standards target fossil-fuel burning power plants that haven’t been built yet, we know the coal industry and their allies in Congress will be gearing up to block them. The House tried unsuccessfully several times last year to prevent the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to control carbon pollution from power plants or any source. The president and EPA Administrator Jackson deserve a great deal of credit for standing up to Congress to defend the Clean Air Act and for using the Clean Air Act to protect the health of our children and ourselves. Moreover, these standards will spur innovation and reduce the effects of climate change that worsen smog and triggers asthma attacks and other health consequences.

Jackson said in a statement:

Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy. Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.

Doctors, nurses, scientists and other experts have stressed that carbon pollution is dangerous for children because climate change’s rising temperatures make smog pollution worse, which triggers asthma attacks and permanently damages and reduces the function of children’s lungs. Also, more than 120 health organizations, including the American Lung Association and American Nurses Association, have gone on record and addressed the link between climate change and health conditions, especially pertaining to children, older adults and low-income Americans.

You can send the EPA a comment on the carbon pollution rule on our website.