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Why Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants Matter

Despite increases in clean energy investment, oil, gas, and coal power plants across the country are still running and polluting our air, setting us back on meeting our climate goals and harming public health. Not only do they account for a large chunk of U.S. carbon pollution, they are also a major hurdle to cleaning up other sectors.

For years Earthjustice has fought to clean up power plants and expedite the transition to clean energy. Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to set limits on the amount of carbon pollution power plants are allowed to emit.

Power plants are responsible for a lot of climate pollution.

  • Fossil-fueled power plants are the largest industrial source of climate pollution, responsible for more than 30% of U.S. carbon pollution, as well as other dangerous air pollution that harms our health.
  • For too long, fossil fuel plants have had a free pass to pollute. Currently, there are no limits on the amount of climate-warming pollution that existing coal and gas-fired power plants emit.
  • Cleaning up the power sector is also key to cutting carbon pollution from other sectors. As we electrify our economy, it must run on clean energy.
  • Strong carbon pollution standards are essential to meet President Biden’s climate and environmental justice commitments.

Earthjustice has been fighting to clean up power plants for years.

  • We’re working at every level to clean up the power sector and accelerate the clean energy transition.
  • Earthjustice and our allies advocated for strong limits on carbon pollution during the Obama administration and against the Trump administration’s do-nothing approach to controlling emissions from the power sector.
  • Now, Earthjustice is calling on the EPA to enact the strongest possible standards to reduce pollution from dirty power plants.

The EPA has the legal authority — and responsibility — under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon pollution.

  • The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate emissions of air pollutants.
  • A 2007 Supreme Court decision, a 2009 endangerment finding by the agency, and the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress all affirmed that greenhouse gas emissions must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
  • In 2022, the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA preserved the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon pollution, even as it constrained the agency’s tools to set strong standards.

The new standards proposed by the EPA are an important step, but the Biden administration must act to protect community health and safety. 

  • By placing strong carbon pollution limits on new and existing power plants, EPA projects its proposals would cut 617 million metric tons of CO2 emissions through 2042 and would have additional significant health benefits from reduced emissions of other harmful pollutants.
  • Earthjustice will advocate for stringent enforcement to ensure these gains are realized.
  • The rule leaves it up to states and sources to decide how to meet these new standards. They can choose to meet them by switching from fossil fuels to pollution-free, clean energy sources like wind and solar. That’s the future we want to see.
  • As this proposal moves forward, the Biden administration must take action to protect the health and safety of communities on the frontlines of power plant pollution, including the risks and harms of carbon capture and hydrogen.
  • The government must listen to and address community concerns. Rigorous monitoring, verification, and enforcement are critical as EPA finalizes this rule.

Earthjustice will continue advocating for the strongest possible carbon pollution standards for power plants as we work towards a clean energy future for all.

Aerial view of the Gulf Energy Center, formerly the Crist Power Plant, located near Pensacola, Florida.
The former Crist Power Plant near Pensacola, Florida, in 2022. (Art Wager / Getty Images)