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March 29, 2012
EPA Proposes Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants
    by Robert Kropp

The standard, which will be the first to limit emissions from the largest individual sources of carbon pollution in the US, will not be applied to existing plants or those to be built in the next 12 months.

Basing its authority on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling explicitly authorizing it to do so under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a standard this week for carbon pollution from new power plants.

"We're taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow."

Stating that the standard "reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies," EPA has proposed that new fossil fuel-fired power plants meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour (MWh). The standard will not be required for existing power plants or for those with permits to start construction within the next 12 months.

"This standard ensures that power companies investing in long-lived new fossil fuel fired power plants will use clean technologies that limit harmful carbon pollution," EPA stated in a fact sheet.

EPA will accept comment on the proposed rule for 60 days, and plans to hold public hearings on it as well.

Companies and investors were quick to applaud EPA's action. A joi nt press release from the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and the Main Street Alliance stated, "As representatives of the business community, we understand the importance of certainty and clear market signals and believe a national standard to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants will both clarify risks and opportunities for US businesses, while also leading to technological innovation and investment in the domestic clean energy market."

"Investment in clean energy infrastructure becomes a meaningful step towards economic recovery and growth," the press release continued. "EPA's proposal, once finalized, will help create the necessary market drivers for this kind investment."

And Mindy Lubber of Ceres stated that the new standard "will provide certainty to businesses and investors, clarify the risks and opportunities for the US electric power sector, and serve as a long-term market signal to drive greater investment in lower-carbon electric power generation."


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