Why Environmentalists Are Already Disappointed With the EPA’s New Climate Change Plan

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June 2 2014 10:12 AM

Why Environmentalists Are Already Disappointed With the EPA’s New Climate Change Plan

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For the first time ever, the EPA is seeking to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants.

Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency is announcing historic new rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants. But so far, climate activists are a tad underwhelmed about the details that have been reported.

The proposed regulations would seek to reduce emissions 30 percent as of 2030 compared with their levels in 2005. The problem, according to some environmentalists, is that we've already sliced greenhouse gases from energy production 10 percent since that year, in part because we’ve replaced much of our coal consumption with natural gas. As Ben Adler writes at Grist, groups like Public Citizen and the Natural Resources Defense Council have called the plan a “good first step” but are going to push for steeper emissions targets during the proposal's public comment period. “We need an open mind on their part to consider evidence we can do better," David Hawkins, NRDC’s director of climate programs, told Grist.  

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Whereas its goal for 2030 might be relatively modest, Council on Foreign Relations analyst Michael Levi argues that the EPA’s near-term targets are quite ambitious. By 2020, the agency wants America’s power plants to cut their emissions by 25 percent, which is a faster drop than the climate plans that have kicked around Congress in recent years would have involved. “The new EPA rules are almost certainly the last major stab at cutting emissions by 2020,” Levi writes. “But it is better to think of the 2030 goal as a current target that might be ratcheted down in the future. This could happen through new legislation or new regulation under existing law. The year 2030 is still far away.”

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

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