EPA Proposes Tougher Power Plant Pollution Standards to Fight Climate Crisis

Late last week, the EPA released newly proposed carbon pollution standards in an effort to clamp down on major sources perpetuating climate change. 

On May 11th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants aimed at protecting public health, reducing harmful pollutants and delivering up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades.

The proposal for coal and new natural gas power plants would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042, which is equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, roughly half the cars in the United States. Through 2042, EPA estimates the net climate and health benefits of the standards on new gas and existing coal-fired power plants are up to $85 billion.

The proposals would also result in cutting tens of thousands of tons of particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide, harmful air pollutants that are known to endanger people’s health, especially in communities that for too long have disproportionally shouldered the burden of high pollution and environmental injustice. In 2030 alone, the proposed standards would prevent:

  • approximately 1,300 premature deaths;
  • more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits;
  • more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks;
  • 38,000 school absence days;
  • 66,000 lost workdays.

Impact on Maryland

It is currently unclear how this new rule will impact Maryland, as much relies on the state’s rollout of renewables. Currently, Maryland’s few remaining coal-powered plants are already scheduled for decommissioning, and there are no new fossil fuel plants in production. The most likely impact will come from downwind pollution, specifically sources from our neighbors. The largest questions around this proposed rule are the same questions around electrification in general. Currently, no state has the generating nor storage capacity to fully transition to renewables. The expansion of generating, transmission, and storage infrastructure will ultimately make or break any move away from fossil fuels.

Read the full coverage on Maryland Matters

Read the full EPA press release.