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NRDC power plant proposal cuts carbon pollution at low cost with major benefits

WASHINGTON (December 5, 2013)--A pioneering plan proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council would reduce carbon pollution from America’s existing power plants by at least 20 percent this decade while delivering more than $20 billion in public health and environmental benefits, according to Dan Lashof, director of the Clean Air and Climate program at NRDC.

The plan would cut dangerous carbon pollution with a cost-effective system that would promote investment in energy efficiency and actually save some consumers money. It also offers flexibility to states and a fair approach for states with a high percentage of coal-fired plants so that they can meet the new requirements in an affordable manner.

“Contrary to the doomsayers, we’ve shown you can make major reductions in carbon pollution at a very reasonable upfront cost, and with enormous long-term benefits,” Lashof said.  The NRDC proposal is consistent with the plan subsequently outlined by President Obama in June when he ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a proposal to reduce carbon pollution.

Lashof will discuss details of a fresh analysis of the plan Friday at a panel in Washington hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners during a day-long public workshop on policy design for greenhouse gas regulation. Lashof will unveil the new data that show emission reductions of up to 30 percent by 2020 compared to 2012 levels and net benefits of more than $22 billion from carbon pollution reductions.

Electric power plants account for about 40 percent of the United States’ carbon pollution, which is the chief driver of climate change. With the nation already suffering from droughts, wildfires, rising seas and other consequences of climate change, it is vital to move as quickly as possible to curb these emissions with a practical, affordable plan.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the authority and the responsibility to reduce this damaging carbon pollution. In a 90-page report completed last year, NRDC detailed a blueprint, consistent with the Clean Air Act, that would recognize different starting points among the states and provide multiple compliance options, including intrastate and interstate emissions averaging strategies, renewable energy and credits for gains in energy efficiency. (See here for a shorter summary.)

NRDC initially calculated, using the same economic model employed by the utility industry, the plan would cut carbon emissions 12 percent by 2020 (compared to 2012 emission levels), at a cost of just $4 billion, while reaping benefits, in terms of saved lives, improved health, and climate impacts averted, of up to $60 billion. A separate analysis showed it would create 200,000 jobs in the energy efficiency sector. NRDC’s updated calculations show greater emission reductions at lower costs, reflecting significant changes in the electricity industry since the original analysis commenced.

Industry groups that want to block action on climate change argue the cost of curbing carbon pollution would be prohibitive, often backing their claims with flimsy studies. “The coal lobby uses biased assumptions, makes misleading comparisons, and completely ignores the benefits of reducing pollution,” Lashof said. “Even with all these flaws, one recent industry analysis showed that when the numbers were compared properly, benefits exceed costs by more than two to one.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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