The EPA proposed new regulations this week that aim to lower carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants by 2030. Based on projections from 2005, the EPA seeks to reduce the amount of CO2 produced from these plants by 30% over the next sixteen years. Coal power generates 37% of the total electricity in the United States, and contributes to 38% of the nation’s CO2 emissions. The EPA estimates a possible 25% drop in the most common air pollutants based on these projections, and boasts that for every dollar invested to lower emissions that the American public would recover seven dollars in health benefits.
“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy and our way of life,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently stated, “We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.”
Maintaining a healthy economy is a contentious point for the United States Chamber of Commerce, which came out against new regulations prior to the EPA’s announcement. The Chamber alleges that the measures the EPA recommends to cut emissions would cost the economy $51 billion and 224,000 jobs annually over the proposed timeline. According to the USCC, these losses would come from the cost of investing in new technology, updating existing power plants, and directly from the coal producing industry, which could face stiffer competition as new energy technologies emerge. It should be noted, however, that these numbers are based on White House recommended emission cuts from 2009, and do not specifically account for this week’s proposed regulations.
The EPA will spend the next year finalizing its proposal, delivering a final plan in mid-2015. In the meantime, we can expect to see an increase in lobbying on both sides of the issue. This will be, as the Climate Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Peter Altman, says, “the Super Bowl of climate politics.”
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