June 3, 2014
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a proposal to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. The proposed regulation is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change strategy and may become one of his defining policy legacies.
While far from perfect, the proposal is one of the most significant environmental rules proposed by the United States in recent history and is seen by many as a step in the right direction, as coal-fired power plants account for nearly 40% of all US carbon emissions. The plan may be particularly impactful for Goldman Prize winners like Maria Gunnoe (2009) and Kimberly Wasserman (2013), whose communities’ health and well-being have been negatively affected by the coal industry.
Some criticisms of the plan include the use of cap-and-trade initiatives, the efficacy of which has been a source of debate among environmentalists. Others worry the plan may bolster natural gas production, which could in turn increase fracking operations across the country, an issue of particular concern to 2014 Goldman Prize winner Helen Slottje.
According to Reuters, “The plan gives states multiple options to achieve their emission targets, such as improving power plant heat rates; using more natural gas plants to replace coal plants; ramping up zero-carbon energy, such as solar or nuclear; and increasing energy efficiency. States can also use measures such as carbon cap-and-trade systems as a way to meet their goals.”
Still others lauded the plan for its flexibility. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “The flexibility of our Clean Power Plan affords states the choices that lead them to a healthier future. Choices that level the playing field, and keep options on the table, not off.”