From Green Right Now Reports

The US EPA today released its proposal to restrict carbon emissions from new power plants, a major step toward curbing the greenhouse gases forcing climate change.

Environmentalists, including Al Gore, speaking as founder of the Climate Reality Project, praised the move:

This is a critical achievement for President Barack Obama and his administration. In the face of an intransigent and inactive Congress, the President has made halting the climate crisis a priority. The policies announced today, combined with the rest of the President’s Climate Action Plan, will put us on the path toward solving the climate crisis, but Congress must also soon face the reality of the situation.

Three years ago, Congress failed to put a price on carbon and, in doing so, allowed global warming pollution to continue unabated. We have seen the disturbing consequences that the climate crisis has to offer — from a drought that covered 60% of our nation to Superstorm Sandy which wreaked havoc and cost the taxpayers billions, from wildfires spreading across large areas of the American West to severe flooding in cities all across our country — we have seen what happens when we fail to act. We need a price on carbon. We need it now.

Gore wants a price on carbon pollution, others have called for a carbon tax. Both approaches aim to reduce carbon emissions faster, and both are controversial.

Today’s move by the EPA simply exercises the agency’s regulatory authority to set carbon pollution thresholds, just as it sets limits for other forms of pollution, such as mercury and arsenic emissions. The EPA has not previously set limits on carbon, but the U.S. Supreme Court settled a lawsuit over the issue, confirming that regulating greenhouse gas emissions is within the EPA’s authority.

With the new carbon rule, the EPA takes aims at the biggest single emitter of greenhouse gases, the electricity sector. Power plants running on fossil fuels account for about 33 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly in the form of carbon dioxide.

GreenHouse Gases graphic EPA

GreenHouse Gas Emissions (Image: EPA)

The carbon limits released today would apply only to new power plants burning coal or natural gas. Still, they are expected to slow emissions by pushing  power producers to install carbon capture technology for coal-fired power plants, switch to cleaner-burning natural gas or build more non-polluting renewal energy into their plans.

The new standards will “spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Under the new rules — subject to a 60-day public comment period — new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

Currently, coal-fired plants in the U.S. emit about double that amount of emissions, on average, according to EPA documents, which report that coal-fired generation plants emit about 2,249 lbs/MWh.

In tandem with today’s release, ¬†officials also launched a “broad-based outreach” campaign to help states, non-profits, governments and labor work together to set carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.

Here’s more information for those who want to file a public comment about this proposal.