EPA Proposes Major Carbon Emissions Cuts For Power Plants

Rule Proposal Would Give States, Power Plants Flexibility In How They Meet New Targets

Wisconsin coal-fired power plants would be able to choose how to reach new emissions targets under the federal proposal. Photo: Seth Tisue (CC-BY-SA)

Wisconsin’s coal-fired power plants may have to cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 30 percent from 2005 levels over the next 15 years, under a federal proposal released Monday morning.

President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement on Monday as part of an ongoing effort to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.

Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin said the planned reductions are welcome. He expects the Obama administration will include a lot of flexibility for how the power plants make the reductions: “Including things like switching to cleaner fuels, increasing the efficiency of the power plants themselves, investing in renewable energy, and investing in energy efficiency for homeowners and businesses.”

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There could also be cap and trade programs that allow the buying and selling of emission credits, as long as overall pollution goes down.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the coal industry are already criticizing the proposal, and may try to block it in the courts. Power companies are wondering if they’ll get credit for some of the carbon dioxide reductions over the last few years.

Madison primary care doctor Claire Gervais says she sees many patients whose lives are being made more difficult by climate change or by the particles released by coal-burning. She worries about the proposal being delayed or watered down, but nevertheless wants the reductions: “Something is better than nothing,” she said.

The carbon dioxide rule proposal is expected to have a lengthy public comment period.