Environmental leaders are urging President Biden to strengthen a suite of federal standards to protect the climate and people’s health from dangerous pollution that continues to spew from the nation’s coal and gas power plants.
In a letter to the president, the leaders call for ambitious protections tackling the many dangers posed by power plants. Every year, power plants emit enormous quantities of air toxics and millions of tons of carbon pollution, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air and discharge more than a billion pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways, harming public health and driving climate change.
The letter also calls for scaled-up clean energy investments and new authority to limit pollution — such as those announced in the ambitious American Jobs Plan on March 31 to boost the economy and create jobs in communities where they’re needed most. The letter notes that it is critical to phase down power sector carbon emissions at least 80 percent below their 2005 peak levels by 2030, which will support the administration’s 2035 target for 100% clean electricity.
“These power plants still cause tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses each year, are the nation’s largest stationary source of climate pollution, and cause massive damage to ecosystems and agriculture,” the environmental leaders write. “The health harms, climate impacts, and other damages fall disproportionately on overburdened and disadvantaged communities. We strongly support your commitment to ensure environmental justice communities and leaders are thoroughly engaged — and heard — in shaping and designing our nation’s pollution control priorities and policies.”
“By carrying out Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) responsibilities under current law in parallel with seeking new incentives, investments, and authority from Congress to limit pollution,” they continue, “your administration can protect all communities while creating millions of good jobs for workers across the country, including those in industries currently dependent on high-polluting fuels.”
The letter was sent to President Biden, National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan from leaders of Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Evergreen Action, League of Conservation Voters, Moms Clean Air Force, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In the letter, they welcome the president’s bold vision to combat climate change and dedication in the American Rescue Act and the American Jobs Plan to building back an economy that creates millions of jobs and that protects and builds opportunity in communities on the front lines of air pollution and climate change.
They also call on Congress to invest in reducing health-harming, toxic pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants to prioritize the health of disadvantaged communities in the transition to a clean energy economy.
The leaders call for stronger multi-pollutant standards on power plants in these areas:
- Curb toxic pollution: Strengthen the current mercury and air toxics standards for power plants.
- Clean up deadly soot and smog: Aggressively enforce existing ambient air quality standards for dangerous fine particles and ozone and update and strengthen these standards to reflect current science.
- Safeguard the climate: Adopt strong carbon pollution standards for existing coal and gas plants, and for new gas plants.
- Protect our parks and visibility: Strengthen pollution controls for power plants that pollute and degrade vistas in our national parks.
- Cut toxic water pollution: Close loopholes in the effluent limitations for coal-fired power plants and strengthen the standards based on state-of-the-art treatment technology.
- Curb coal ash: Strengthen safeguards for disposing the toxic waste produced by coal-fired electric power generation.