EPA Launches Controversial ‘Clean Power Plan’

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy signs new regulations for power plants June 2, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Bypassing Congress and using President Barack Obama's 'Climate Action Plan,' the new regulations will force more than 600 existing coal-fired power plants, the single largest source of greenhouse gas emission in the country, to reduce their carbon pollution 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy signs new regulations for power plants June 2, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Bypassing Congress and using President Barack Obama’s ‘Climate Action Plan,’ the new regulations will force more than 600 existing coal-fired power plants, the single largest source of greenhouse gas emission in the country, to reduce their carbon pollution 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (WNEW/AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a plan that will set the first-ever national carbon pollution standards limits for America’s existing power plants.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday that the Clean Power Plan aims to “maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment.”

The proposal enacts tougher new air quality standards and requires a cut in power plant carbon dioxide emissions by nearly a third over the next 15 years.

The centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to fight climate change without going through Congress, the rules seek to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which form the largest single source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Administration officials say the rules will give states reduction goals, then allow flexibility for states to meet those standards through an array of means and offsets.

But the proposal has already prompted groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to argue the emissions limits will cost jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter power plants across the country.

Last week, Obama launched a show of support for the new emissions rules, putting the weight of the White House behind the government’s controversial strategy for combating climate change.

Three days before his administration was set to unveil the first carbon dioxide limits on existing plants, Obama paid a surprise visit to a children’s hospital and met with young asthma patients, hoping to call attention to the health effects of air pollution. He also talked up the need to curb carbon pollution during a hurricane preparedness briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters.

“The changes we’re seeing in our climate means that, unfortunately, storms like Sandy could end up being more common and more devastating,” Obama said, invoking the deadly 2012 superstorm that’s become a rallying cry for climate activists.

The pair of appearances kicked off a public campaign by the president to rally Americans behind groundbreaking power plant rules that have already drawn scorn from the energy industry, business groups and even some Democrats from oil-dependent states.

Obama’s visit with young asthmatics at the Children’s National Medical Center was closed to reporters, but the White House said while at the hospital, Obama was also taping his weekly radio and Internet address, which spotlights the carbon rules and was released Saturday.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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