The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) welcomes the upcoming release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants. The draft standards, under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, are scheduled to be released on Monday, June 2, and are expected to set a national limit on carbon pollution from power plants, while providing states with maximum flexibility to reduce their emissions. Rather than tackle emission-heavy plants directly, states should be able to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy technology deployment, or join regional cap-and-trade programs that allow market forces to best meet the overall carbon reduction targets.

“Climate change is happening and carbon emissions must be addressed,” said EESI Executive Director Carol Werner. “As an organization concerned about providing solid information to inform pragmatic policy solutions to solve difficult problems, EESI is pleased that EPA is seeking to encourage innovation and multiple approaches for states in the quest to reduce carbon emissions. Recognizing that states are all different, this approach provides opportunities to encourage smart actions that can enhance economic competitiveness and improve public health while reducing emissions.”

EESI Board Chairman Jared Blum, who heads the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), agreed and added, “EPA’s proposed regulation can provide the ‘tipping point’ in coalescing this country’s already strong technical capacities to lower our carbon output. Our military, industrial, and scientific leaders have requested that our government provide an actionable path forward. The 111(d) proposal is one such path that deserves broad business support.”

The regulations would primarily impact coal plants, which supply about 40 percent of U.S. electricity and are the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases. Some organizations assert that the regulations, by requiring expensive retrofits or even plant closures, would lead to higher electricity rates for consumers and to job losses.

“Reducing carbon emissions is not cost-free,” acknowledged Werner. “But the key point is that the benefits will far, far outweigh the costs. Protecting the environment creates wealth: developing energy efficiency measures and implementing them in our buildings, plants, and industrial processes; installing solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal, bioenergy, and hydro facilities; and cleaning up dirty power plants—all that creates jobs and spurs innovation. In fact, for every dollar already invested to comply with the Clean Air Act, $4 to $8 have been generated in economic returns! More importantly, the cost of inaction would be staggering: left unchecked, carbon emissions will lead to substantially higher sea levels, exacerbate extreme weather, and put pressure on our food and water supplies.”