New Limits on Carbon Pollution Will Help Usher in a Clean, Healthier Future

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever national standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from new power plants. These historic safeguards are critical to ensuring a cleaner future for American communities: no longer will new electric plants be able to endanger our health with unchecked carbon pollution and the climate change it causes.

Instead, our nation can start creating a 21st century power fleet—one that uses the latest clean technologies and reduces the threat of climate change.

If you know one of the 25 million Americans living with asthma, then you know someone whose health is already threatened by carbon pollution. Carbon pollution causes climate change, and rising temperatures make smog worse. Every day that smog hangs over our cities is a day many asthma sufferers struggle harder to breathe.

Doctors, nurses, and public health experts say carbon pollution is especially dangerous for children, because smog triggers asthma attacks and can permanently damage children’s lungs. 

A child with an inhaler is one human face of unchecked carbon pollution, but the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by some of last year’s extreme weather are also dealing with its effects. Climate change fueled by carbon pollution contribute to weather events like the floods and droughts that have damaged homes, devastated businesses, and strained municipal budgets across the country in the past year.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set limits on air pollutants that threaten public health and welfare. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 and 2011 that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that the EPA must act if it determined that carbon endangers Americans. The standards announced today honor that ruling and follow precedents established over four decades of Clean Air Act programs.

And those 40 years of progress show us that new standards unleash innovation. The EPA’s recent limits on carbon pollution from cars and trucks, for instance, have inspired U.S. automakers to design pioneering technologies that save drivers money and reduce oil dependence by increasing gas mileage—and have put Americans to work and helped bring Detroit back from the brink in the process. The new power plant standards will stimulate similar breakthroughs and help create a fully modernized electricity system for our country.

Today’s standards relate to new plants—guaranteeing that any coal-fired power plant built in America will use state-of-the-art technologies to capture and store carbon emissions. NRDC is eagerly awaiting the next round of standards that will clean up aging coal-fired power plants as well, since they represent the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.

In the meantime, the American people can weigh in on the standards before they become final, and we expect to see a record number of comments in support of these safeguards. 

Poll after poll confirms that Americans count on the EPA to protect them from dangerous pollution. One survey conducted for the American Lung Association found that three out of four respondents support the EPA setting tougher standards on specific air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, and a bipartisan 69 percent majority believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.

Americans know government safeguards drive dirty polluters to clean up their act. With these new carbon limits in place, we can count on a new generation of power plants that will create jobs, help stabilize the climate, and allow us all to breathe a little easier.