- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed unprecedented regulations to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent over the next 15 years, saddling states with the responsibility of figuring out how to meet President Obama’s ambitious and highly controversial climate change goals.

The sweeping plan — which could become the most enduring piece of Mr. Obama’s legacy on the issue of climate change — sets lofty targets but lays out a variety of options for states to meet those objectives. By giving some level of power to states, the administration seeks to blunt criticism that it’s using the heavy hand of the federal government to reshape the American energy landscape.

Critics, however, still argue the regulations will deal a near death blow to the coal industry. Coal-fired power plants emit more carbon pollution than other facilities and many could be forced to shut down as a result of Monday’s proposal.

The EPA argues the new rules — which exist in draft form and won’t be finalized until next year — are necessary to save the planet.

“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy and our way of life,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday. “This plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.”

The EPA already has placed new restrictions on future power plants.

Monday’s proposal does not set specific emissions limits from individual power plants. Instead, it sets the broad goal of reducing carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2030, and also lays out short-term goals to be achieved by 2020.

Each state is responsible for meeting the 30 percent target and must submit their own plans to the EPA by June 30, 2016.

In its proposal, the agency lays out a slate of options states can pursue to meet the thresholds, including: Investing in energy efficiency programs; expanded use of clean power such as wind or solar, rather than coal; upgrade coal-fired plants to capture carbon or improve efficiency; and other suggestions.

The most controversial surely will be the administration’s recommendation that states consider “a state-only plan or collaborate with each other to develop plans on a multi-state basis” — an attempt to prod states into cap-and-trade style systems that would require power companies to pay for the carbon their facilities emit.

Regardless of the options states choose to pursue, opponents say the plan will lead to an “energy crisis” in America as states are forced to retire old coal-fired plants, which still generate nearly 40 percent percent of the nation’s electricity.

“If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes is creating America’s next energy crisis,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the merican Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. “As we predicted, the administration chose political expediency over practical reality as it unveiled energy standards devoid of common sense and flexibility. These guidelines represent a complete disregard for our country’s most vital fuel sources, like American coal.”

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