EPA Proposes Strongest Actions Yet to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

greenhouse gas emissions photo

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the strongest actions yet to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed regulations would cut emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2030.

States could meet the new standards through a variety of methods that include energy efficiency, wind and solar alternatives, shifting from coal to natural gas, power plant upgrades, and encouraging a shift in electricity use during off peak hours. EPA says the approach will allow states flexibility in how they abide by the new regulations.

“This proposal is all about flexibility. That’s what makes it ambitious, but achievable,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy in The Washington Post.  McCarthy received two standing ovations and did a fist bump with Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) before starting her speech. “For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate.”

Ever since the carbon bill failed in Congress, environmental advocates have been pressing President Obama to take executive action under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed regulations will cut carbon emissions by 500 million metric tons. The draft proposal is open to public comment.

“This momentous announcement raises the bar for controlling carbon emissions in the United States,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington research organization, reported in The New York Times, adding, “These new standards send a powerful message around the world.”

These are the strongest actions ever taken by the U.S. to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere; scientists warn they are to blame for global climate change. Burning coal is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In all, 600 antiquated power plants may have to close if they can’t meet the new regulations, especially considering that some were built when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. As a result, the proposal is sure to have to withstand a host of lawsuits and legislative attacks.

This sets the U.S. on track to meet U.N. emission reduction targets set in 2009. Over the long term the U.S. has been the largest emitter of greenhouse gas, but today China is the largest emitter.

“I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, said.

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Image: Thure Johnson