Biden admin delays crucial climate rule: The Washington Post

Biden admin delays crucial climate rule: The Washington Post

The EPA Delays Final Limits on Gas-Fired Power Plant Emissions

Introduction

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its plans to delay final limits on planet-warming emissions from gas-fired power plants, and to significantly strengthen them. This crucial rule, which is a part of President Biden’s climate agenda, may not be finalized until after November. As a result, its fate may rest on the outcome of the 2024 election. This move from the EPA is in response to pleas from environmental justice groups. These groups have stated that the rule was not protective enough of disadvantaged communities that have breathed in unhealthy air for decades.

Environmental Justice and Air Pollution

Communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately located near gas plant smokestacks and other sources of industrial pollution. The EPA is therefore taking a new, comprehensive approach to cover the entire fleet of natural gas-fired turbines. This approach will also cover more pollutants, including climate, toxic and criteria air pollution, achieving greater emissions reductions than the current proposal.

Polluting Power Plants and Greenhouse Gases

Power plants rank as the nation’s second-biggest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. They account for about 25 percent of the greenhouse gases produced by the United States. According to the EPA, the tougher standards under consideration for existing gas plants would also specifically address pollutants of concern to neighboring communities, such as formaldehyde and lung-damaging nitrogen dioxide.

The Clean Air Act and Legal Challenges

The question of how to regulate planet-warming pollution from power plants has prompted nearly a decade of legal and political wrangling. In 2015, President Barack Obama unveiled the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s electricity sector by 32 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. However, the EPA was challenged in court by Republican attorneys general and the utility industry, who argued they had overstepped their authorities under the Clean Air Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court took the surprise step of staying the regulation before it could take effect nationwide. In 2019, the Trump administration replaced the Clean Power Plan with its own more lenient rule, saying it would lower electricity costs. However, in 2021, the U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit scrapped that regulation. The following year, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA can only make sweeping changes to the nation’s power sector with explicit approval from Congress.

The Way Forward

The EPA is still on track to finalize the rules for existing coal plants and new gas plants in April. The rule for existing gas plants would take longer and would cover harmful air pollutants in addition to greenhouse gases. This stronger, more durable approach will achieve greater emissions reductions than the current proposal. Abigail Dillen, president of the environmental law firm Earthjustice, said she understood the need to delay the requirements for existing gas plants. She noted that the proposed rule would not have covered peaker plants or higher-emitting gas plants that can ramp up electricity production during periods of peak demand. The EPA’s approach, which is comprehensive in terms of all gas plants and all the pollution they emit, is the right way forward.

Conclusion

The EPA’s decision to delay final limits on planet-warming emissions from gas-fired power plants and to strengthen them is essential for President Biden’s climate agenda. This move is in response to pleas from environmental justice groups, which stated the rule was not protective enough of disadvantaged communities. As EPA works towards final standards to cut climate pollution from existing coal and new gas-fired power plants later this spring, the agency is taking a new, comprehensive approach to cover the entire fleet of natural gas-fired turbines, as well as cover more pollutants including climate, toxic and criteria air pollution. This stronger, more durable approach will achieve greater emissions reductions than the current proposal.

Originally Post From https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2024/02/29/epa-gas-power-plant-rule/

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