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Industry Pushes EPA to Roll Back Power Plant Regulations

Environmental experts warn that the proposed limits already do not go far enough

Big Bend Coal Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida in the United States. (Photo: Wknight94 / Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Big Bend Coal Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida in the United States. (Photo: Wknight94 / Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Coal industry and business giants are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to backpedal on its proposed regulation of existing power plant emissions, despite warnings from environmental experts that the limits already do not go far enough to stave off climate crisis.

Partnership for a Better Energy Future, which represents 140 leading coal and oil industry and other business groups including the Chamber of Commerce and National Mining Association, sent a scalding letter Monday night to EPA chief Gina McCarthy, slamming the agency's proposed new regulations on carbon emissions from current power plants as "disruptive" and "arbitrary."

The EPA proposal, introduced in June as part of President Obama's climate plan, aims to cut the carbon dioxide emissions of existing power plants to 30 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2030. The agency opened a 120-day public comment period on the proposal.

The industry letter charges that the proposal would "negatively impact the economy," exceeds the EPA's authority, and is not technologically achievable. The letter urges the EPA to "go back to the drawing board on this rule."

Yet, Bill Snape, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Common Dreams that the proposal "is in fact incredibly modest" and that "phasing out coal" is humanity's only option.

Kate DeAngelis, climate and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth, agrees. While DeAngelis applauded Obama for taking a "big step" on climate change, she told Common Dreams that "the problem with the proposal is that it doesn't require strict enough emissions reductions and the targets are too weak."

She is not alone. Scientists have warned that the United States and other developed countries must cut carbon emissions across all industries by far more than 30 percent, and far earlier than 2020, if the planet is to have a shot at averting disaster.

"In the EPA rule, they expect that by 2030 the U.S. will still rely on coal and natural gas for 30 percent of our energy sources," explained DeAngelis. "That is not sufficient reduction."

In their letter, Partnership for a Better Energy Future call for an extension of the public comment period. But DeAngelis warned, "That is just a tactic to delay the new standards and get in a Republican president so they can squash the measure altogether."

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