EPA Will Propose 30 Percent Cut in Power Plants’ Carbon Emissions

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Photo: Mark Wilson/2014 Getty Images

On Monday, the Obama administration will unveil a plan to reduce carbon pollution from the nation's power plants that may prove to be the strongest action ever taken by the U.S. government to fight climate change, if it survives what's sure to be a difficult legal and political battle. The Environmental Protection Agency draft rule says that by 2030, carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants must be reduced by up to 30 percent from the level they were at in 2005, according to The Wall Street Journal. The plan, which won't become final until June 2015, is based on a proposal made by the Natural Resources Defense Council shortly after the 2012 election. Environmentalists have been expecting a similar plan from the White House for some time, and a year ago, New York's Jonathan Chait described it as "the last best chance to deal with global warming in the Obama era."

Under the proposal, each state will have a different reduction standard, and flexibility in how it reaches that target. For example, rather than shuttering coal power plants, which produce 38 percent of the nation's carbon-dioxide emissions, states could join cap-and-trade programs, shift to more renewable energy sources, or introduce programs to reduce power usage. Some environmental groups say the baseline for cuts should be a more recent year, since 13 states and the District of Columbia have already reduced carbon emissions by at least 30 percent since 2005.

In 2010, Obama failed to push cap-and-trade legislation through Congress, but to issue the new regulation he'll rely on his executive authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act. He'll still have to deal with Republican climate changedeniers, and legislators from both parties in coal-dependent states. Many lawmakers say a crackdown on power plant emissions will hurt the economy, and have already vowed to challenge such EPA regulations in court. While the plan has yet to be officially announced, Politico reports that Obama called congressional Democrats on Sunday to "thank them for their support in advance" — since they'll be answering to Republicans who claim they're waging a job-killing "war on coal" during the midterms and beyond.