If we're going to avert catastrophic climate change, our actions must match the magnitude of the crisis we face. The EPA recently proposed new minimum standards under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants -- but the new rule falls short of meeting the challenge of global warming.
We have to do more.
The EPA admits that the new standards won't reduce global warming emissions at all between now and 2020. "Fracking" and other unconventional drilling techniques have ensured that most new power plants built during that time will be natural gas anyway, and the new standards do nothing to address carbon pollution from existing power plants -- or "biomass" plants -- letting many of the nation's largest polluters off the hook.
We need a rule that actually reduces greenhouse gas pollution now. Take action and insist the EPA pass a real rule that reduces carbon pollution from all power plants before it's too late.
I strongly support using the Clean Air Act's proven, effective programs to limit the pollution that causes global warming. Scientists tell us that we are now in the "critical decade" of the climate crisis -- we must ensure that global greenhouse emissions peak in the next few years and decline sharply thereafter if we are to preserve our best chance to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
That's why the EPA must strengthen the proposed performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA itself has admitted that these standards are not expected to reduce global warming pollution at all between now and 2020. Our response to the climate crisis has to be commensurate with the magnitude of the threat. We cannot pass up the opportunity to adopt the strictest possible standards for power plants.
The EPA also must close critical loopholes in the standards, first and foremost by moving immediately to promulgate guidance for regulation of existing power plants. I am deeply troubled by recent public statements that the EPA has "no plans" to address greenhouse gas pollution from existing power plants. Both the law and science demand prompt and effective controls on these major sources of carbon pollution.
Finally, the EPA must eliminate its unexplained exception for biomass power plants, which can produce even more carbon dioxide at the smokestack than coal-fired plants -- and could exceed the proposed performance standard by more than 300 percent. Burning trees for electricity is carbon intensive, not "carbon neutral." If the EPA is going to hold coal plants to a standard based on natural gas-fired generation, it must include biomass plants in this standard.
I support the EPA's efforts to use the powerful tools in the Clean Air Act to address global warming pollution, but these proposed standards pass up a critical opportunity to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the face of mounting evidence that our climate is changing in dangerous and unpredictable ways, the EPA's regulations must reduce emissions as much as possible, not simply adopt standards that the economy is likely to produce anyway. The proposed rule must be strengthened and its many loopholes closed.
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