Last year, the Obama Administration proposed a dramatic plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The coal-fired power industry, which is the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, was livid.
They called it the “war on coal” and vowed to block the regulations from moving forward. Environmentalists wondered if President Obama and brand-new EPA chief Gina McCarthy would stand their ground to protect American health. Today we got our answer.
The administration announced on Friday that it’s not afraid of a confrontation with the dying coal industry “and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies,” reports the New York Times.
From the official EPA press release:
Under today’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.
Those are strict standards, even for today’s most advanced coal-fired power plants, which emit an average of about 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Although the fossil fuel industry will whine and complain about how unreasonable it is to expect that they not dump toxins into the air at alarming rates, the regulation is both reasonable and long overdue.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “a typical coal plant generates 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year” not to mention tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and arsenic.
A typical uncontrolled plant emits also “emits 500 tons of small airborne particles each year” and “particulate matter (also referred to as soot or fly ash) can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.”
“Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the same release. “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”
As soon as the new policy is posted to the Federal Register, the EPA will be seeking comment and information on the new proposal, including holding a public hearing, for 60 days. Please, if you enjoy breathing clean air and don’t believe the coal industry has the right to poison innocent Americans just to make a profit, consider letting them know.
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