Obama's Power Plant Standards Give Natural Gas Free Pass to Pollute Climate

For Immediate Release

Obama's Power Plant Standards Give Natural Gas Free Pass to Pollute Climate

Newly Published EPA Rules Fall Far Short of Addressing Climate Crisis, Could Undermine President’s Climate Legacy

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration’s proposed rule for regulating greenhouse pollution from new power plants gives the natural gas industry a free pass to pollute, says the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s New Source Performance Standards — published today in the Federal Register — propose standards that would not achieve any actual pollution reductions from gas-fired power plants, even though existing emissions-control technology would allow the industry to cut emissions.

“The EPA’s lax standards for gas-fired power plants contradict President Obama’s strong statements about the urgent need to cut carbon and other greenhouse pollution,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel. “The president has rightly said we must find the courage to fight climate change before it’s too late to act. But his administration’s weak natural gas power-plant rules are a huge missed opportunity to fight the pollution that’s warming our planet and pushing us toward climate chaos.” 

President Obama’s own climate scientists warned last year that temperatures could rise as much 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 without rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, including methane that is released through oil and gas extraction as well as natural gas transportation and storage. Yet the EPA’s newly published power plant proposed rules set standards for natural gas that will not require new plants to perform any better than old ones. 

Although the EPA’s standards for coal plants will reduce carbon pollution, the lax natural gas rules could lock the United States into continued reliance on fossil fuels for decades, contradicting the president’s vision of quick action on climate change.  Methane, in particular, is over 80 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, and is a massive byproduct of the current oil and gas fracking boom.   

Failure to use this once-in-a-generation opportunity to require the natural gas industry to adopt meaningful pollution control technology will undermine the president’s environmental legacy. An International Energy Agency report concluded that converting from coal to gas in the electricity sector would still fuel a global temperature increase of 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Burning more natural gas means more drilling and fracking — and more pollution. A recent UT Austin study found that greenhouse gas emissions from fracking for gas alone were equivalent to 10 million cars on the road each year — and that's just the pollution from fracking, not counting the emissions when the gas itself is burned or leaks along transport lines.

“If the EPA is serious about the climate crisis, it needs to be serious about reducing greenhouse pollution from all power plants — regardless of whether they are fueled by gas or coal,” Snape said. “Lackluster pollution-control rules don’t just imperil the president’s legacy, they endanger our entire planet. The bottom line is that we can do better.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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