Using the Clean Air Act to Sharply Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants
Climate and energy experts at NRDC have crafted a groundbreaking proposal that will help the Administration create jobs, grow the economy, and curb climate change by going after the country's largest source of climate-changing pollution: emissions from hundreds of existing power plants. NRDC's proposal shows how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the states, can set new carbon pollution standards under existing authority in the Clean Air Act that will cut existing power plant emissions 26 percent by 2020 (relative to peak emissions in 2005).
The approach includes an innovative provision that will drive investment in cost-effective energy efficiency, substantially lowering the cost of compliance, lowering electricity bills, and creating thousands of jobs across the country. Further, NRDC's analysis shows that the benefits -- in saved lives, reduced illnesses, and climate change avoided -- far outweigh the costs, as much as 15 times.
Having endured a year where climate change contributed to damaging floods, widespread wildfires, record drought, and superstorm Sandy which cost Americans hundreds of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, we can't afford to wait any longer to act. For the health and welfare of Americans, for the nation's economy, and for the stability of the planet, now is the time to reduce pollution from America's power plants, dramatically increase the energy efficiency of our economy, and reduce the threat of climate change.
We know where the pollution is;
now we just have to go get it.
In the United States, electric power plants emit about 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year, or roughly 40 percent of the nation's total emissions. The EPA has taken important first steps by setting standards that will cut the carbon pollution from automobiles and trucks nearly in half by 2025 and by proposing standards to limit the carbon pollution from new power plants. But the EPA has yet to tackle the CO2 pollution from hundreds of existing fossil-fueled power plants in the United States.
The EPA has both the authority and responsibility to reduce pollution from these plants under the Clean Air Act, the nation's bedrock air pollution law adopted in 1970. NRDC has crafted an effective and flexible approach to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants that:
- uses the legal authority under the Clean Air Act.
- recognizes differences in the starting points among states.
- charts a path to affordable and effective emissions reductions by tapping into the ingenuity of the states.
- provides multiple compliance options, including cleaning up existing power plants, shifting power generation to plants with lower emissions or none at all, and improving the efficiency of electricity use.
Using the same sophisticated integrated planning model used by the industry and the EPA, NRDC calculated the pollution reductions that would result from the proposed approach -- and the costs and benefits of achieving those reductions.
The plan would cut CO2 pollution from America's power plants by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 34 percent by 2025. The price tag: about $4 billion in 2020. But the benefits -- in saved lives, reduced illnesses, and climate change avoided -- would be $26 to 60 billion, 6 to 15 times greater than the costs. For Americans' health and welfare, for the nation's economy, and for the health of the planet, we can't afford not to curb the carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Video: Dan Lashof discusses NRDC's power plant plan
last revised 12/4/2012
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