EPA Proposes First-Ever Power Plant Carbon Pollution Limits

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration on Friday formally proposed the first-ever national carbon pollution limits for new power plants, seeking to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite the strong opposition from the energy industry and many Republicans.

The Environmental Protection Agency standard, which would apply only to newly constructed plants, would require coal-burning facilities to capture about 40 percent of their carbon dioxide emissions using new and costly technologies.  It would also set caps for natural gas-fueled plants.  

The move is the first significant step by President Obama to keep good on the pledge from his second inaugural address to more aggressively confront climate change.  The administration says rising greenhouse gas emissions have led to warming global temperatures, harmed public health, and fueled more intense and extreme weather.

Obama ordered the new regulations in a June 25 memo, exerting his executive authority with majorities in Congress opposed to the rules.

The proposed rule for new power plants is still subject to a 60-day comment period before taking effect.  The EPA said on Friday that it is drafting guidelines for existing power plants, the single largest source of emissions in the U.S., and will release a proposal next summer.

Environmental advocates say the new regulations are a positive step but, without addressing existing plants, don’t go far enough. The power industry and many Republicans meanwhile have criticized the new EPA rules as costly burdens that will kill jobs and increase costs to consumers.  Some critics say the new technology is too expensive and unproven.  

Earlier this month, industry representatives warned Bloomberg News that the regulations would effectively ban the construction of any new coal power plants.

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