Obama Commits to Tackle Carbon Pollution in 2012

Yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced plans for establishing new carbon pollution limits on the nation’s power plants.  This is good news. Just last month NWF had voiced serious concerns that these efforts were going to be delayed indefinitely.  Significantly, the new schedule gets the Obama Administration back on track to tackle the nation’s biggest source of air pollution that causes climate change.

EPA' Administrator Jackson (image emagazine.com)
These new rules will utilize section 111 of the Clean Air Act. This provision of law requires EPA to establish federal air pollution standards to control air pollutants from stationary sources (read here coal-fired power plants) which cause or contribute significantly to the air pollution that harms our health and wildlife. The standards are also intended to promote use of the most modern air pollution control technologies so our power plants stay up to date.

Let’s just say the sooner we get on with this effort the better.  As NWF’s Senior Scientist Amanda Staudt blogs today, a new report by the Nobel Prize winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says carbon pollution induced climate change will make the drought and flooding events that have battered the United States more frequent in years to come.  

Right now, our nation’s power plants can belch carbon dioxide pollution into our air without any limits. A recent piece in the New York Review of Books by Yale economist William Nordhaus aptly describes why it is urgent that we address this source of carbon pollution:


[The] burning coal is very dirty, releasing both conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases. Per unit of energy, coal emits 27 percent more CO2 than oil and 78 percent more CO2 than natural gas. . . . In the aggregate, the emissions of CO2 from coal-fired electricity- generating facilities are the largest single industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. They make up one third of all emissions in an industry that constitutes only about one half of one percent of the US economy! Moreover, studies indicate that reducing coal-fired generation is the least expensive way for the US to reduce its carbon emissions in the near term (emphasis added).

The new pollution limits will be established into two parts. In January, the administration will propose limits that any new power plant must meet before it can be constructed.  NWF expects that the critically important second part of the standards – new carbon pollution limits on the nation’s existing power plants – will be proposed  later in the Spring of 2012.  

This is where you come in! The public will have an opportunity to (and needs to) comment in support of setting strong air pollution standards that reduce carbon pollution. Polluters will surely go all out to push back on this effort and we need to stop them in their tracks.

Visit our Action Center and see how you can help this effort!