EPA Should Strengthen the Clean Power Plan

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's remarks at a conference in Washington this week prompted speculation that her agency may relax its proposed standards and timetable for states to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

That would be heading in the wrong direction.

Some 1500 mostly coal- and gas-fired power plants spew out more than two billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide each year--40 percent of the nation's total. Curbing this pollution is essential to any meaningful plan to tackle climate change.

The task ahead for EPA is to make the proposed standards stronger. My colleague David Doniger explains here how EPA can make the Clean Power Plan even better in a way that assures us reliable and affordable power. Advances in renewable energy and energy efficiency mean that we can meet our energy needs without endangering our health and communities.

Of course, EPA may need to adjust its proposal, taking into consideration feedback from the states, the utility industry and other stakeholders. But any adjustments need to strengthen, not weaken, the standards overall - including bringing us a meaningful reduction in carbon pollution. Fourteen states have already urged the EPA to strengthen the standards and utilities across the country are also constructively engaging in the development of the standards.

The bottom line is that for too long, power companies have been allowed to dump unlimited amounts of dangerous carbon pollution into our air. We can't wait any longer and we can't let polluters pressure the EPA into weakening the standards. Coal industry attacks on the plan are fizzling at the state level, because even in red and purple states, the public supports EPA's putting strong limits on power plants' carbon pollution. In states across the country, clean energy means better jobs and healthier communities and citizens and lawmakers recognize this fact.

President Obama has shown leadership by taking action here at home and leveraging action abroad from China and other big carbon polluters. The president has set critical targets for cutting U.S. carbon pollution in 2020 and 2025, and strong power plant standards are the centerpiece of that effort. If those standards are weakened, we won't be able to meet our own carbon pollution targets, and we'll lose our diplomatic leverage on other countries.

Strong carbon pollution standards are critical to President Obama's legacy in defending our health and communities from that harm that climate change brings. 2014 was the hottest year on record. And in recent years, American families and communities have felt bite to their pocketbooks and the threat to their families from the kind of violent storms, droughts, and floods that climate change can bring. Now is the time to be building our strongest defenses.

The good news is that we have the clean energy alternatives to meet our power needs. We can reduce overall carbon pollution with strong plans in each state that encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency. EPA's final proposal needs to be strong and show the way forward to a healthier climate.