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  • In the United States, electric power plants emit about 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year, or roughly 40 percent of the nation's total emissions.
  • 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. The EPA proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants in June, 2014.
  • NRDC has proposed an effective, affordable and flexible approach to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act that taps into the ingenuity of the states and the private sector.

A ground-breaking Natural Resources Defense Council proposal on how to cut carbon pollution from America's power plants can achieve even greater reductions than previously thought, and at less cost, an updated analysis of NRDC's initial 2012 plan shows.

NRDC's new analysis finds that that 470 to 700 million tons of carbon pollution can be eliminated per year in 2020 compared to 2012 levels, equivalent to the emissions from 95 to 130 million autos. At the same time, the NRDC approach would yield $28 billion to $63 billion in health and environmental benefits that far outweigh the costs of putting first-ever limits on carbon pollution.

By comparison, NRDC's 2012 analysis put those numbers at 270 million tons and $25-60 billion.

The improved outcomes result from updating the 2012 approach to reflect recent trends in the electricity industry, including lower electricity demand than previously expected and reduced costs for wind turbines, and natural gas.

Furthermore, the updated analysis demonstrates there are various paths, not just one, to achieve dramatic reductions in the carbon pollution power plants release through a range of solutions that rely, to varying degrees, on energy efficiency, wind energy, and carbon capture and storage.

NRDC's original power plant carbon reduction proposal, released in December 2012, has been widely seen as a possible model for standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing as part of the Administration's National Climate Action Plan.

Climate and energy experts at NRDC have shown that the nation can create jobs, grow the economy and curb climate change by going after the largest source of climate-changing pollution: emissions from hundreds of existing power plants.

NRDC's proposal shows how the 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 20 to 30 percent by 2020 (relative to 2012 emission levels).

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 updated analysis shows that the benefits -- in saved lives, reduced illnesses, and climate change avoided -- far outweigh the costs, by $21 billion to $53 billion in 2020.

Having endured recent years 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 2.2 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. Now the EPA is working on tackling 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, expanding renewables, 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 updated analysis shows NRDC's approach would cut CO2 pollution from America's power plants by 21 to 31 percent from 2012 levels by 2020, and 25 to 36 percent by 2025. It would deliver benefits in saved lives and damages avoided from climate change that would surpass the cost by as much as $21 billion to $53 billion by 2020. 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.


Learn More

NRDC's proposal to cut carbon pollution would provide vital health protections for Americans while creating new jobs and lowering electric bills. Read more »

Energy efficiency is a proven resource with significant potential to reduce power plant emissions, combat climate change and clean the air we breathe. Read more »


Video: NRDC Talks About The Importance Of Energy Efficiency

last revised 6/6/2014

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