A new standard released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will limit emissions of carbon dioxide from new coal- and oil-fired power plants, the nation’s single-largest source of carbon pollution, a leading contributor to climate change.
“Today 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 in a statement. “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.”
According to EPA, the standard is cost-effective and in line with movement within the power sector around adoption of clean technologies.
“Most important, the standard will enhance the lives of our children and our children’s children,” said Jackson on a call with journalists on Tuesday.
Public health advocates applauded the announcement.
“Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants will help limit the gases that contribute to climate change, which poses serious, long-term health consequences,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin in a statement. “APHA applauds EPA for issuing this new standard and strengthening public health protections under the Clean Air Act.”
“Power plants should not be allowed to emit unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air,” said Albert Rizzo, chair of the board of directors of the American Lung Association in a statement. “Scientists warn that the buildup of carbon pollution will create warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful smog levels. More smog means more childhood asthma attacks and complications for those with lung disease.”
Climate change and rising temperatures expose more people to conditions that result in illness and death from a range of factors, including respiratory illness, heat-related stress and insect-borne diseases. Vulnerable communities are at greatest risk, including children, older adults, those with serious health conditions and low-income families.
The clean air standard is the latest in a line of actions EPA has taken on climate change, which Jackson said she pledged as one of her top priorities when she joined the agency. She pointed to several measures as evidence, including EPA’s endangerment finding, which identifies concentrations of greenhouse gases as a threat to public health; stronger fuel economy standards issued in 2010; and a recently released national database of sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
EPA is seeking comments on the new rule over the next 60 days.