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EPA Finally Going After Power Plant Emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a wide-ranging new proposal for limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants. If finalized, the new rule will be the first time the federal government has restricted CO2 emissions from existing power plants, which generate about a quarter of the country’s emissions. The new rule would require coal and gas power plants to capture 90 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Power plant chimney belching out smoke

Scientists and environmental groups have long agreed such measures are needed to slow global warming. The new rule would mean power plants would have to to invest billions in new carbon capture and storage equipment, add ultra-clean hydrogen or risk shut-down.

“EPA’s proposal relies on proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future,” Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement, as Reuters reported.

White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said the new proposal will help the country to stay on track to achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2035.

“In a strong and vigorous way this reinforces our trajectory in a critical sector of the economy - in the power sector - and we are moving even faster and with greater certainty in the direction of unlocking the economic upside and the public health gains associated with meeting the president’s climate targets,” Zaidi told reporters, as reported by The Hill.

EPA projections say the proposal would reduce coal plant emissions by 617 million tonnes from 2028 to 2042, which Reuters says is equal to yearly emissions reductions of removing 137 million passenger vehicles. It's also the equivalent of removing just under twice the total annual emissions currently produced by the UK.

It is predicted that some coal plants may choose to shut down rather than adhere to the new requirements.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA cannot impose a system-wide transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels, but does have the authority to regulate energy plants by setting on-site standards for technology. Environmental groups said the new proposal had been carefully crafted to withstand legal challenges.

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