EPA Proposes New Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

by | May 11, 2023

Power Plant Emissions

(Credit: Canva Pro)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants. These standards aim to reduce harmful pollutants, improve emissions, and generate significant climate and public health benefits.

With the EPA’s newest proposed standards for coal and natural gas power plants, they could avoid up to 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2042. This reduction is equivalent to the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, which is approximately half of the cars in the United States. Over the same period, these standards are estimated to deliver net climate and health benefits worth up to $85 billion.

Moreover, the proposal targets the reduction of other harmful air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. These pollutants have been known to pose significant risks to public health, disproportionately affecting those in low-income or rural communities, according to the EPA. 

Supporting Clean Energy and Implementing New Carbon Pollution Standards

Under President Biden’s current policy agenda, which has catalyzed a clean energy and manufacturing boom across the United States, the adoption of clean, affordable energy encourages the utilization of advanced pollution reduction technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and clean hydrogen. EPA’s analysis considers the significant progress made in these technologies and expects power companies to leverage them to meet the proposed standards in a cost-effective manner.

By strengthening the current New Source Performance Standards for newly built fossil fuel-fired stationary combustion turbines and taking into account different unit characteristics such as capacity, length of operation, and frequency of operation, the proposed standards ensure appropriate and effective reductions in carbon pollution.

Even more, the agency acknowledges the importance of providing opportunities for meaningful engagement and plans to support communities through investments in infrastructure, the deployment of new technologies, and long-term economic revitalization. Those communities that are disproportionately burdened by pollution and climate change impacts, as well as energy communities and workers, are now being prioritized and included.

Power Plant Rules Also Aim to Improve Community Health

By implementing the proposed standards, the EPA anticipates preventing approximately 1,300 premature deaths, more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits, over 300,000 cases of asthma attacks, 38,000 school absence days, and 66,000 lost workdays in 2030 alone.

The EPA’s proposed standards are designed to leverage proven and cost-effective technologies that can be directly applied to power plants. According to EPA’s analysis, power companies can implement these standards with negligible impacts on electricity prices, well within the range of historical fluctuations.

The EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards for power plants represent a significant step toward a cleaner, healthier future. By implementing these standards, the United States can protect public health, reduce harmful pollutants, and achieve substantial climate benefits.

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