WASHINGTON Dec 4 The United States could shed
more than a third of its carbon pollution by 2025 by giving
states the flexibility to use a variety of measures to reduce or
offset their emissions rather than setting a uniform national
performance standard for existing power plants, an environmental
The Natural Resources Defense Council called on Tuesday for
the Environmental Protection Agency to set state-specific
emission rates that would take into account their different
energy generation mixes. Power plants account for one-third of
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA in March used the federal Clean Air Act to issue an
emissions performance standard for new power plants that would
make it virtually impossible to build new coal-fired facilities.
Although EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said the agency
has no plans to tackle the more controversial challenge of
regulating carbon from older plants, it is legally obligated to
do so or will face legal challenges under the act.
President Barack Obama said in one of his first
post-presidential election speeches that climate change would be
back on the national agenda, but he still faces strong
resistance to carbon regulations from some members of Congress.
The NRDC said at a press conference on Tuesday that its plan
is something the administration could implement "without waiting
LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD
With utilities and lawmakers from some coal-dependent states
strongly opposed to any carbon regulation that would put them at
a disadvantage, NRDC said it drafted a plan that would give them
the flexibility to cut their emissions in a cost-effective way.
"We are overturning the conventional wisdom that reducing
carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act would be ineffective
and expensive," said Peter Lehner, NRDC's executive director.
The EPA did not return a call seeking comment on the plan.
If the plan were implemented, the U.S. could slash power
sector emissions by 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 34
percent by 2025 "without imposing excessive burdens on any
region," the group said.
It also said complying with the plan would cost $4 billion
in 2020 but would be offset by the benefits of avoided illnesses
and reduced pollution that could total between $25 billion and
It would also stimulate up to $90 billion in investments in
energy efficiency and renewables over the next eight years,
according to the NRDC.
The group has proposed the plan to several officials at the
EPA so far, and also sought feedback from Virginia-based power
company Dominion Resources Inc and Florida-based wholesale
power company NextEra Energy Inc.
Under the proposed standard, the EPA would determine each
state's energy generation mix during a set period and set them a
target fossil-fleet average emission rates.
States, such as those in the southeastern U.S. with more
carbon-intensive fleets would have higher target emission rates,
but greater differentials between their starting emission rates
and their targets, according to the plan.
The proposal would then give facilities covered by the
standard a range of options to meet the standard, including
trading emissions credits for reduced emissions from fossil fuel
plants, shifting to lower-emitting units, and improving energy