The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules to limit carbon emissions on Monday.
The Clean Power Plan, part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, is the first time carbon pollution limits have been set for power plants. It targets cutting carbon emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and sets goals for each state to meet.
Protect the Adirondacks characterized the announcement of the Clean Power Plan as “... similar to the creation of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act.“ Executive Director Peter Bauer. “We clearly see this as a major milestone in U.S. environmental history because this really marks the first point in which the federal government, on a national basis, has moved to get involved in the reduction of CO2 emissions. And that’s a very big deal for confronting the enormous challenges of global climate change.”
Environmental groups are praising the flexibility the plan allows states in crafting plans to meet carbon reduction goals. New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn notes that coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40% of the carbon pollution in the US. “What’s particularly attractive about it is that it’s flexible. Each state has its own target. It can hit its target in ways that makes sense for it. So there’s a lot of local-state autonomy in terms of strategy.”
Environmental Advocates of New York Executive Director Peter Iwanowitz calls the Obama Administration’s plan a bold step which helps bring the entire country in line with some of the states leading reduction efforts. “If we can get the Ohio River Valley and the southeastern part of the United States doing what we’ve been doing to reduce carbon pollution and funding things like energy efficiency and seeing more wind power, that means that the pollution that wafts into our state, something I like to call second-hand smog, we’ll have cleaner air as a result.”
Vermont is the only state exempted from the new rules because it does not have a coal powered electric generating unit. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz says they will participate in regional approaches to solving carbon problems. “While it’s true that we’re not required to ratchet down, they expect there will be a regional approach. We’re one of the founding members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, called RGGI, which is a market-based approach to reducing carbon pollution. It also calls out Efficiency Vermont, our energy efficiency utility. Even though we’re not going to have to write up one of these plans ourselves as a state, our regional approaches are going to become more robust.”
While regional groups are praising the plan, some industry representatives are concerned. The American Public Power Association is analyzing the Clean Power Plan. Senior Vice President Regulatory Affairs and Communications Joe Nipper says the Clean Air Act is not suited to the task. “Our preference would be to have Congressional action to develop a national program to address climate change, for the reason that the Clean Air Act is not particularly well suited to do this. But clearly Congress is not going to act on climate change anytime in the near future. And so EPA is moving forward. We’ll be working with them to help fashion the final rule in a way that we think allows our members to continue to provide affordable and reliable electricity while at the same making progress on the very important goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The new rules were announced on the same day that the owners of a coal burning power plant in Massachusetts announced that the Mt. Tom plant will close by October. The state’s other coal burning plant, the Salem Harbor Power station, has closed to refit as a natural gas burning facility.