A new US Environmental Protection Agency proposal aims to dramatically slash carbon emissions from coal- and natural gas–fired power plants. The regulations would require these plants to cut nearly all their carbon dioxide emissions by 2035.
The proposal doesn’t specify how plants should meet the new regulations, but the agency says that it considered readily available emission control technologies when developing the new pollution standards. For example, coal and gas plants can install carbon capture and storage systems, which capture CO2 before it leaves the smokestack. Older plants can choose to retire.
According to a fact sheet provided by the EPA, the power sector is the one of the country’s largest sources of greenhouse gases, responsible for emitting 25% of emissions in 2021. By targeting this sector, the plan would prevent 617 million metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by 2042, the EPA estimates. The proposal is also expected to cut tens of thousands of tons of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, reductions the EPA projects would prevent 1,300 premature deaths in 2030 alone.
The proposal comes on the heels of two others that were recently announced by the Biden EPA: one targeting methane pollution from oil and gas operations and another limiting tailpipe pollution from new cars and trucks. According to Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, these three proposals address the country’s three largest sources of climate-altering pollution.
“We welcome today’s vitally important proposal,” Krupp says in a statement, “which will bring us closer to a clean energy future with healthier air, a safer climate, good jobs, and affordable, reliable electricity.”
Not everyone welcomes the plan, however. “This proposal will further strain America’s electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation,” Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, says in a statement. A proposal 10 years ago by President Barack Obama to limit power plant emissions was blocked by the Supreme Court and later dropped by President Donald Trump.