By Eric Galatas
May 19, 2023 - The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cut pollution from power plants not already set to retire by 90% by 2030 is the most ambitious in over a decade.
Critics, including the National Mining Association, have called the move an onslaught designed to shut down coal-fired power plants.
Rob Joyce, energy organizer for the Sierra Club's Wyoming chapter, said the new standards would work in tandem with recent legislation passed by Congress, meant to support the communities and workers who fueled the nation in the 20th century as they transition to a clean energy economy.
"It's important for places like Wyoming to really look at things like the Inflation Reduction Act and what opportunities there are in there," Joyce urged. "For our communities to get the support that we all need; to figure out how we're going to make this transition work."
Previous efforts to rein in pollution from power plants under the Obama administration were blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, and then rolled back under the Trump administration. The new standards also are expected to end up in court.
The EPA said its proposal will give power plants a lot of leeway on how to reduce pollution, including carbon capture technologies heavily promoted by fossil-fuel companies as a way to continue bringing their product to market.
Joyce argued carbon capture makes far less economic or environmental sense than ramping up renewable energy.
"It's been touted for a long time as a 'silver bullet' to save coal, and now to save natural gas, even," Joyce pointed out. "But we have the technology that we need to get clean energy through wind and solar. And we're seeing that play out in some of our utilities' plans."
The new standards come 14 years after the EPA determined climate pollution endangers public health, and are projected to prevent 1,300 premature deaths, more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits, and more than 300,000 asthma attacks each year.
Joyce added the standards are critical for meeting a deadline set by leading global scientists to reduce carbon pollution by at least 60% by 2035.
"In terms of meeting our climate goals, this is a huge step forward," Joyce asserted. "These proposed standards would avoid over 600 million metric tons of carbon pollution. That's equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of roughly half of the cars in the United States."
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