The EPA Must Not Stall on Setting Limits for Carbon Pollution

Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency announced it will miss its September deadline for proposing limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It remains unclear how long this postponement will last.

A brief delay to get the details right would be acceptable. But stalling on the EPA’s obligation to protect our families from dangerous pollution is most certainly not.

President Obama let polluters off the hook when he postponed new smog rules two weeks ago. He must not repeat this mistake with carbon pollution, especially since his administration has already made groundbreaking progress on this front. In July, the president reached agreement with automakers on clean car standards that will cut automobile carbon emissions in half by 2030 and save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump.

Now it’s time for power plants—the nation’s largest carbon polluters—to do their share. And it’s time for the administration to hold them accountable.

The past several months have shown us what inaction on climate change looks like. From the wildfires tearing through Texas to the flooding that ravaged the Mississippi River basin, communities across the nation are reeling from extreme weather events.

Along the Atlantic Seaboard and into the Northeast, residents are still cleaning up from the mess left by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. The Susquehanna River crested at 41-feet, swamping homes and pushing the limits of already strained municipal budgets. One woman in Binghamton, New York, said, “In 2005, we had the 100-year flood, and in 2006, we had the 500-year flood,” she said. “What-year flood is this?”

Most American families and most American cities simply do not have the money these days to deal with the crushing costs of more frequent and more intense storms, floods, or droughts.

Polluters must take responsibility for their contribution to the climate crisis. Several of the nation’s largest power companies are well position to invest in the necessary clean-air technology: In 2010, the top 10 utilities had a combined $28.4 billion in profits and $7.5 billion in cash balances. They can afford to protect their customers’ health and well being.

Cleaning up, rebuilding, and replacing old power plants will also put thousands of Americans to work. According to the Institute for Clean Air Companies, complying with just one Clean Air Act standard created 200,000 person-year jobs in the past seven years—nearly 30,000 full time jobs each year on average.

The Supreme Court has ruled twice that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to protect Americans from carbon pollution. The case is closed. It is time for action.