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December 08, 2012

Plan for Regulating Emissions from Existing Power Plants Proposed
    by Robert Kropp

The Natural Resources Defense Council states in an issues brief that state-specific standards from the Environmental Protection Agency could lead to a steep drop in emissions and significant cost savings. -- On the night of his reelection, President Obama said, "We can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader." But after a first term in which too little was accomplished, and an election campaign notable for the absence of a debate on climate change, are there reasonable grounds for optimism?

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), there are. In a recently published issue brief, the nonprofit calculates that by acting on its authority under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can issue regulations that would contribute to a 26% decrease in emissions from existing power plants by 2020. By 2025, the NRDC states, the emissions decrease would reach 34%.

"The President put climate change on the national agenda, and NRDC's plan shows how the United States can make big reductions in carbon pollution that drive climate change, with a flexible approach that promotes clean energy investments and delivers big benefits for Americans' health," said Peter Lehner, NRDC's Executive Director.

Furthermore, the cost to industry of implementing such regulations would be $4 billion in 2020, a small amount compared to the savings. "The benefitsó in saved lives, reduced illnesses, and climate change avoided ówould be $25 billion to 60 billion, 6 to 15 times greater than the costs," the brief contends.

The NRDC proposes that EPA issue state-specific regulations on emissions from existing power plants. "The emissions standard for each state would be an overall emission rate average of all fossil fuel plants in the state," the brief states. "An individual plant could emit at a higher or lower rate." Also, "state-regulated energy efficiency programs could earn credits for avoided power generation, and avoided pollution," it continues.

"This approach would stimulate investments of more than $90 billion in energy efficiency and renewables between now and 2020, boosting local and state economies," the brief concludes.

"Our proposal would eliminate hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution, save thousands of lives and stimulate a surge in clean energy and energy efficiency investments," Dan Lashof, NRDC's Director of Climate and Clean Air programs, said.

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