The Obama administration is surging forward with a first-of-its-kind EPA rule for new power plants, in what Republicans and industry groups say will inflate electricity prices and possibly kill off coal, the preeminent U.S. energy source. The EPA announced the rule Tuesday, with a goal to curb carbon dioxide emissions by imposing strict regulations on new coal-fired plants, including a limit that caps plant emissions to not more than 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy generated.
"Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies — and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow," asserted Lisa Jackson, chief administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers, and other policy advocates say the measure simply grounds the natural market forces that currently favor the development of natural gas facilities. "It shows that the future of electricity is in adopting low polluting, climate smart technologies," averred Joe Mendelson, the director of global warming policy at the National Wildlife Federation.
Added David Doniger, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council: The regulation "reinforces what most power company executives and investors already understand — that if and when new coal plants make a comeback, they will need to be designed with carbon capture and storage."
But Republican lawmakers and industry leaders differ, arguing that economic dormancy and high unemployment levels are already making utility bills a heavy financial burden.
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