||United States Moves to Cut Power Plant Carbon Emissions by 30 per cent
||Monday, June 02, 2014
Knowledge Management in Government
||Jun 03, 2014
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a 30 per cent cut in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, a hefty reduction that is expected to ignite a fierce battle pitting the White House against Congress and the fossil fuel industry.
In announcing her Clean Power Plan, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday took direct aim at the “special interest skeptics who will cry the sky is falling” and who will “deliberately ignore the risks, overestimate the costs and undervalue the benefits.”
Challenging industry claims that the new regulations will cost more than 220,000 jobs a year and reduce economic production by $51 billion US annually, she said, “There’s a reason empty allegations from critics sound like a broken record.”
“It’s the same tired play from the same special-interest playbook they’ve used for decades,” she continued. “In the ‘60s, when smog choked our cities, critics cried wolf and said EPA action would put the brakes on auto production. They were wrong. Instead, our air got cleaner, our kids got healthier — and we sold more cars. In the ‘90s, critics cried wolf and said fighting acid rain would make electricity bills go up and our lights go out. They said industry would, quote, ‘die a quiet death.’ Wrong again. Industry is alive and well, our lights are still on, and we’ve dramatically reduced acid rain.”
U.S. emission reductions on coal-fired plants likely will benefit Canadians, because toxins from U.S. power plants often drift over Canadian cities, particularly those in southern Ontario.
They will also put pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose policy has been to harmonize Canada’s climate targets with those of the U.S.
Harper said Monday in the Commons that “we’re acting sooner, we’re acting bigger” than the U.S. But Environment Canada predicts Canada will fail to meet its emissions reduction target of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, primarily because of oilsands projects, whose emissions are expected to triple. By contrast, the U.S. is on track to exceed its target.
Canada “continues to resist action on addressing its major emissions growth problem — the rapidly increasing greenhouse gas pollution from oilsands production,” Simon Dyer, with the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, said in a statement.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May called Harper’s comments a “climate change shell game.” She called on the federal government to introduce a comprehensive, economy-wide plan that allows Canada to meet its international obligations.
The EPA’s McCarthy said her Clean Power Plan is the “key piece” of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan that he hopes will lead to a global agreement on climate change next year in Paris.
“For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate,” she said. “When we do, we’ll turn climate risk into business opportunity, we’ll spur innovation and investment, and we’ll build a world-leading clean energy economy. The science is clear. The risks are clear. And the high costs of climate inaction keep piling up.”
She added that the reductions can all be achieved using proven technology. EPA senior officials said in a briefing they expect that as high as 26 per cent reductions — 383 million metric tonnes of carbon — can be achieved as early as 2020.
Monday’s announcement marks the first time the EPA has proposed carbon emission regulations on the U.S.’s 1,600 fossil fuel power plants, which account for about 2.5 billion tonnes or about 41 per cent of U.S. emissions.
The EPA said the regulations will also cut by more than 25 per cent particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. It said these reductions will provide up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits as well as shrink electricity bills roughly eight per cent through energy efficiency.
McCarthy said the plan will “unleash market forces that drive even more innovation and investment, and spur even cleaner power and all sorts of new low-carbon technologies.”
“Our plan pulls private investment off the shelves and into our clean energy revolution, and sends it in every direction, not just one or two,” she said. “The opportunities are tremendous.”
The regulations will be implemented through the states, which have until June 2016 to submit their implementation plans. The EPA will impose plans on states who miss their deadlines.
EPA officials said states will decide how they pay for the transition to cleaner energy. Cap and trade systems, and carbon taxes are all on the table.
The goals vary from state to state and are based on the level of reductions they have already achieved.
Missouri and Illinois, which produce at least 80 per cent of their electricity from coal, must reduce their emissions by 190 and 283 kilograms per megawatt hours respectively by 2030. California, which has made great strides in reducing emissions, has a reduction target of only 80 kg.
“These targets are very achievable and reasonable for states that have a lot of coal and for states that don’t have a lot of coal,” a senior EPA official said in a briefing.
Despite the regulations, the EPA predicts that coal will remain a major supplier of electricity in the U.S. By 2030, it will still make up 31 per cent of electricity production compared to 37 per cent today.
Over the next 120 days, the EPA will hold four public hearings and accept written comments on the proposed program.
The industry has sued the EPA for attempting to impose carbon emissions standards in the past, but has been unsuccessful. The U.S. Clean Act grants the EPA the power to protect the public from airborne pollution including carbon.