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Obama administration

The Echo Bay Marina at Nevada's Lake Mead Recreational Area in July 2014.

(This is the first in a weekly series of blog posts discussing the U.S. EPA’s recent efforts to limit industrial carbon pollution from existing power plants. Earthjustice is advocating that the agency honor the commitments that President Obama made in his Climate Action Plan by setting strong standards that cut emissions from power plants by at least 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.)

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is home to some of the most vibrant, healthy coral reefs in the world, such as Kingman Reef.

President Obama is on a bit of an environmental kick lately.

Just a few weeks ago, he proposed regulating carbon pollution from new power plants. This is a huge step forward in lowering greenhouse gas emissions in the air, which will then have major implications on the ground. The proposal needs to be stronger, be even as is it will generate tens of thousands of jobs and an estimated $93 billion in health and climate benefits.

Child at a lake.

Hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens, including nearly 40,000 Earthjustice supporters, weighed in over the past few weeks on a rule jointly proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers that would restore long-standing Clean Water Act protections and provide clarity to the jurisdiction of this law that keeps toxic pollutants out of our cherished water sources.

Navajo Generating Station in Page, AZ. (Ecoflight)

We expected strong opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal for slashing emissions from the nation’s dirty power plants—the biggest contributors to climate change. But two weeks after the Obama administration rolled out its plan, the strongest reaction, so far, is from America’s people.

Today, because of unrelenting pressure from so many people who have demanded action on climate change, the Obama administration proposed the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution limits on existing power plants—the single biggest source of climate pollution.

Just getting this rule proposed has taken years of effort, and we are thankful for all of our supporters who sent messages urging our public officials to address climate change

Carbon limits for power plants are vitally important for a few key reasons:

President Clinton signs the Executive Order in the Oval Office (February 11, 1994).

In 1982, when I was a young lawyer in North Carolina, the state had to clean up miles of roadsides where toxic PCBs had been illegally dumped. The state decided to dispose of the toxic waste in a landfill which it proposed to place in a predominantly low-income African-American community in Warren County, far from where the clean-up was occurring. The decision sparked protests from the community, and activists from the broader civil rights world joined the fight.

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

Moapa Band of Paiutes Tribal Chairman William Anderson holds a photo of the Reid Gardner Power Station.

Late yesterday, the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that requires the EPA to publish a final rule addressing the disposal of coal ash by Dec. 19, 2014. The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit brought by 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes against the EPA for its failure to review and revise its regulations pertaining to coal ash.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.