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On June 25th, 2013, President Obama released his Climate Action Plan outlining the steps he planned to take to reduce the biggest driver of climate change -- carbon pollution. Less than one year later, the EPA is preparing to unveil the centerpiece of the President's plan, standards that would set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

In March 2014, NRDC released the report, Cleaner and Cheaper: Using the Clean Air Act to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants, to outline several proposals for how the EPA could shape carbon standards for power plants to get the greatest reductions at the lowest cost. One of those proposals, called the "Moderate, Full Efficiency," showed how the United States could slash carbon pollution by 531 million tons a year, nearly 25 percent, by 2020 from 2012 levels (nearly 950 million tons and 36 percent below 2005 levels), helping deliver more than $50 billion in health and environmental benefits, NRDC's analysis shows.

In May 2014, NRDC built on that report by calculating the electric bill savings and energy efficiency jobs that would be created by our "Moderate, Full Efficiency" for the U.S. as a whole and for 13 states.

We find that, if implemented, our proposal would save American households and businesses $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020 while creating more than 274,000 efficiency-related jobs across the country. In addition, we examined the impact for several states. The results are summarized in the table below, and fully explained in individual fact sheets for the United States, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

data table

The NRDC analysis was conducted by ICF International, a highly respected firm that has studied electricity markets for industry and government alike.

About 1,000 power plants today emit more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, accounting for 40 percent of the total U.S. carbon pollution emissions. While there are limits on emissions of arsenic, mercury, lead, sulfur and soot, there are no federal limits at all on carbon pollution they can release. That needs to change, for the sake of our children and future generations.

The EPA's Plan Takes Aim at the Heart of the Problem

  • Coal-and-gas-fired electric power plants are the largest source of the dangerous carbon pollution that is driving climate change and extreme weather.
  • In 2011, the nation's 100 largest electric power companies, which account for 86 percent of electricity production and 88 percent of the industry's carbon pollution, released 2.1 billion tons of carbon pollution, according to reporting by the industry.
  • Today we limit the amount of arsenic, mercury, and soot these plants emit. But there are no limits on carbon pollution. That is wrong, and it must change.

In response, the president has directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from these power plants. The EPA has both the authority and the responsibility to reduce carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, and it should move forward to help protect future generations. The EPA has proposed standards for future power plants and is scheduled to issue the first federal standards for existing power plants in June 2014.

NRDC's Carbon Pollution Solution: Empower States to Curb Climate Change

In December 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council unveiled a proposal showing one way for the EPA to significantly cut carbon pollution from the nation's power plants -- at low cost and with big benefits. This approach:

  • Allows states to tailor policies to meet the standards, choosing among such actions as cleaning up existing power plants, shifting power generation to plants with lower emissions or none at all, and improving the efficiency of electricity use.
  • Sets carbon intensity–based emissions standards for all large fossil-fueled power plants. Each state would have a different target; states relying more on coal would have a higher carbon target than those depending less on coal.
  • Charts a path to affordable and effective emissions reductions by tapping into the ingenuity of the states and leveraging their existing efforts to reduce pollution and provide more clean energy options. This state-based approach has been used for decades to cut other pollutants.
  • Can be implemented now using the authority the EPA has under the Clean Air Act.

Learn more about the benefits of reducing power plant carbon pollution to states across the country.

last revised 5/30/2014

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