EPA Takes First Steps Towards Limits on Power Plant Carbon Pollution to Protect Our Health and Safety

Today the Obama Administration took the first steps forward to set limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. The government announced today that EPA will propose carbon pollution standards for new power plants, after a 90-day inter-agency review that began this week.

Strong carbon pollution safeguards—together with standards that are needed for existing plants too—will make our air safer to breathe, curb climate change, and help usher in a cleaner, more modern fleet of power plants.

The Obama Administration deserves credit for listening to scientists instead of the polluters.  Carbon pollution is dangerous to the health of our children, our families, and our communities. 

That’s why the Supreme Court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency’s to protect Americans from these emissions in 2007. The administration has already taken bold steps to clean up and modernize America’s cars and trucks.   Now it’s time to do the same for America’s power plants.

Tough standards would help shield Americans from significant health risks. Scientific research shows that climate change leads to higher levels of ozone smog—pollutants that inflame the lung’s airways, trigger asthma attacks, and cause respiratory disease.

The American Academy of Pediatricians says children are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including increased air pollution. By the 2020s, asthma emergency department visits among children are projected to rise 7 percent because of climate change-related ozone smog increases.

Carbon pollution also intensifies extreme weather events—like the ones that have damaged homes, ruined roads, and strained municipal budgets across the nation. After unusually powerful storms battered the Atlantic Coast this September, 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 do not have the financial wherewithal to deal with the ravages caused by more intense storms, floods, or droughts. Reducing the carbon emissions that intensify these storms will save money and stabilize our communities. And because power plants generate 40 percent of all U.S. carbon pollution, strong standards for these sources would lead to a major drop in carbon pollution.

To make these carbon cuts, we need strong standards -- for both new and existing power plants.  Many of America’s existing plants—especially coal-fired ones—have been around for 30, 40, even 50 years. Though some have embraced new technologies, many are outdated and inefficient dinosaurs.

Americans don’t drive 1960s cars, rely on 1970s medical equipment, or use 1980s computers. There is no reason we should be getting our power from old and dirty power plants.  It’s time for these plants to embrace innovation, run cleaner, and compete better in the 21st century.

Today’s action confirms the administration’s commitment to reducing carbon pollution and building a cleaner energy future. I especially applaud EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s leadership in keeping the administration’s climate action on track.

NRDC will be watching closely to ensure the EPA follows through with strong carbon pollution standards for new sources.  And we’ll keep pressing EPA to act quickly on strong standards to clean up the existing fleet of power plants too.

America has already waited too long to confront climate change, and towns from Texas to Vermont are paying the price in lost lives and destroyed homes. Meanwhile, asthma rates among American children are on the rise, with nearly 10 percent of all kids suffering from the condition. Doctors don’t know yet why asthma rates are on the rise, but they do know that more ozone-smog pollution makes respiratory illness worse.

We cannot afford to wait any longer to deliver the benefits of a stable climate and clean air.