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EPA Proposes Power Plant Regulations

The centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s effort to address climate change through executive action is now a known quantity with the release of the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution guidelines for existing power plants. The rule, pursuant to Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, would cut carbon pollution from power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and allow states to use flexible approaches to meet this target.

The proposed guidelines seek to reduce pollution from the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and end a flawed regulatory framework that has incentivized utilities to keep the oldest and dirtiest plants running decades longer than expected. Policy Integrity has long argued that regulating existing plants is a crucial step, and our recent policy brief analyzes the debate around these guidelines.

The EPA’s proposed guidelines should be lauded for their use of broad, market-based compliance mechanisms and the inclusion of mass-based emission caps (though each state’s default cap will be rate-based). The 30 percent target would likely allow the United States to meet its commitment to the United Nations to cut overall carbon pollution 17 percent by 2020, and results in a rule that is eminently cost-benefit-justified (the EPA estimates the rule will cost the economy $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion annually and lead to benefits of $55 billion to $93 billion, primarily by preventing premature deaths and mitigating respiratory diseases).

Policy Integrity will submit public comments on the proposed guidelines in the coming months. Our recent public comments on the EPA’s emissions standards for new power plants can be found here.