EPA to propose 30 percent reduction in power plant carbon emissions

A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on September 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pa. Jeff Swensen, Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose Monday a new rule for existing coal-fired power plants across the country that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, sources close to the matter confirm to CBS News

This would be the first use of regulatory power by the Obama administration to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, linked in many scientific studies to recent increases in global temperatures, from coal-fired plants currently operating. The administration previously impose CO2 limits on future power plants.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama called supportive Senate and House Democrats to brief them on the outlines of the new rule.

Congress has not approved such measures and Democrats from coal states are likely to object. The administration will use authority granted by the Supreme Court, which ruled 6-2 in April that the EPA could regulate carbon dioxide emissions under powers provided by the Nixon-era Clean Air Act.

The proposed rule, which will be subject to public scrutiny and comment, will provide states flexibility to meet the carbon dioxide standards. One dimension of the flexibility will be a so-called cap-and-trade system that allows for the trading of carbon credits by more efficient power plants to plants that release more pollution. The move is designed to incentivize power plants to reduce CO2 pollution faster.

Congressional Republicans are deeply skeptical of the new EPA rule and will likely seek to slow or block its implementation. Coal-state Democrats may also object, with both constituencies arguing the standards will require costly overhauls of plant equipment that could drive electric prices higher. Opponents also contend reductions in US carbon dioxide pollution will not address global warming as much as advocates claim - primarily because coal-based power generation, and the pollution that comes with it, is on the rise in China, India and other developing countries.

Even so, some environmental groups, while hailing any move to limit carbon dioxide from existing power plants, consider the new proposed standard relatively easy to meet.

With a 2005 CO2 baseline, the industry as a whole has cut carbon dioxide pollution by 15 percent already, according U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics.

Those numbers indicate CO2 emissions in 2005 equaled 2.4 billion metric tons. Similar emissions in 2013 totaled 2.05 billion metric tons, a difference of 364 metric tons or roughly 15 percent.

Neither the White House nor the EPA would confirm specifics on the new CO2 rule. Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, the EPA has established regulatory targets for lower pollution. States then seek to comply by requiring utilities to retro-fit plants or take other remedial measures.

In the case of the new carbon dioxide standards, options include improving energy and boiler combustion efficiency, reducing waste and peak-use consumer tendencies, and increasing the use of renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydro-power.

  • Major Garrett

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