EPA Ruling on Carbon Emissions Changes Everything

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced major action in the fight against climate change, declaring a 30 percent reduction to the country’s power plant carbon pollution levels by 2030.

Aimed directly at the nation’s coal-fired power plants, the Obama administration is backing up its promise to fight dirty energy production and gear the country towards cleaner energy sources. The new regulations will reduce record-high pollution levels set by coal plants in 2005.

Though ambitious, the targets mandated by the EPA are attainable by all states, even ones that predominantly use coal as their energy source. The Chicago Tribune cited comments from Gina McCarthy, administrator of the EPA. “The flexibility of our Clean Power Plan affords states the choices that lead them to a healthier future. Choices that level the playing field, and keep options on the table, not off,” McCarthy said.

The new plan offers several ways for states to meet the emission target, including increased natural gas use, implementation of renewable sources such as wind and solar, and several energy efficiency programs. However, expected legal action by various states will slow down the success rate of these rulings. They will challenge the agency to see if it overstepped its boundaries. Additionally, this is likely new fodder for Republicans in the upcoming fall elections who feel that energy costs will now increase and that hundreds of companies will close, and jobs will be lost.

Those arguments will not sway the EPA or the Obama administration. McCarthy indicated that a $7 health benefit would be created for each dollar spent on the plan simply due to smog and soot reductions. The EPA estimates that 150,000 asthma attacks in children will be alleviated, and 3,300 heart attacks will be avoided by reduced exposure to current pollution levels.

Though the US is doing its part to become healthier and more energy efficient, countries like China are not. The new rules could act as a baseline for the US to convince other areas of the world to be more proactive in curbing their emissions. UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres stated, “I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action.” The graph below from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows how dominant of an energy source coal is in China.

Image courtesy of EIA

Image courtesy of EIA

The new regulations from the EPA will surely be met with controversy and discord. However, people who are chronically ill from living near filthy coal plants clearly won’t care. The administration is doing the right thing by cleaning up the air in this country. Hopefully the rest of the world can follow suit.



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