Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a landmark rule that would establish the first national limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The proposal, which would set a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, would effectively prevent new coal-fired power plants from operating without carbon-capture technology. While environmental interests are applauding the effort, certain industry and congressional representatives are warning that the requirements will have dire economic consequences.
Five years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, qualify as “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act, and as a result the EPA was required to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. In December 2009, the EPA issued the finding required by the Supreme Court’s decision, concluding that greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations by contributing to long-term changes in climate. The new regulations, proposed under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Performance Standards, represent a major milestone in the agency’s effort to drive the energy industry to adopt technology to combat climate change.
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