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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks on Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants, As Prepared

03/27/2012
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As prepared for delivery.

Early in this administration I listed Taking Action on Climate Change as one of my top priorities for the future of the EPA. That effort has taken place on many fronts.

In December 2009, after rigorous scientific study – and following the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act – EPA released the endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. We documented the scientific case that, through climate change, an abundance of greenhouse gases threaten the health and welfare of the American people.

In 2010, this administration finalized the first-ever national fuel economy standards that will reduce the amount of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere. That effort will protect our climate, while also saving drivers more than a trillion dollars in future gas costs. And it has been followed by a resurgence of innovative leadership from the American auto industry.

We have issued the first greenhouse gas permits for the largest new and rebuilt facilities, and compiled a useful database of greenhouse gas sources that is raising important awareness about how we effectively – and cost-effectively – approach this challenge.

Earlier this year we joined the State Department to reduce the global output of the most aggressive climate change forcing emissions like methane and soot.

And 2012 also marks the 20th anniversary of Energy Star, one of our most successful voluntary programs for cutting carbon pollution. Over the past two decades, American families and businesses have used Energy Star to save nearly $230 billion on utility bills and prevent more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

I’m proud to announce the latest effort to protect the health and well-being of Americans from the threat of climate change: Today EPA is proposing the first-ever carbon pollution standard for future power plants.

The standard will establish a limit of 1000 pounds of carbon pollution per megawatt hour for all future units. This achievable standard will tackle carbon pollution by ensuring that technologies are used to limit emissions in new power plants. While it will impose no cost on our existing energy infrastructure, it is in line with investments already being made throughout the utility industry.

For example, this action is consistent with the move toward clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation – which is already the technology of choice for recently built and currently planned fossil fuel fired power plants. New natural gas combined cycle power plant units should be able to meet the proposed standard without add-on controls. Based on available data, nearly 95 percent of the NGCC units built since 2005 meet the limit.

The standard also creates a path forward for future facilities to use technology that burns coal while releasing less carbon pollution. The standard can be met by new coal plants using carbon capture technology, and the proposal also includes an alternative compliance strategy for coal that allows an averaging of emissions over 30 years, which will require the use of cleaner, advanced coal units and the mandatory phasing in of carbon capture and storage technology with at least 50 percent capture.

Ultimately, the standard is expected to take advantage of American-made technology, and help move our nation into an era of American energy that is cleaner and cheaper. Most importantly, it is a step toward controlling pollution from new power plants and taking on a challenge that we cannot afford to leave for our kids and grandkids.

There are currently no uniform national standards on carbon pollution emissions from power plants. This standard will check the previously uncontrolled amount of greenhouse gases that power plants – the largest stationary sources of carbon pollution in the US – release into our atmosphere. The proposed standard will apply only to new power plants, and will not apply to power plants that are already up and running – including those that are making modifications to comply with our recent Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Nor does it apply to planned generating units that have already received their permits and that break ground within the next 12 months.

As I said, the proposed standard’s requirements are firmly in line with a movement in the power sector to build cleaner generating units using innovative American technologies like clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation. As a result, the proposed standard will impose no costs on current electrical generation, while ensuring cleaner generation in the future. We expect to see continued investment in modern technology as the next generation of power plants comes online to replace aging and decades-old plants.

Let me take a moment to underscore how important transparency and public engagement has been – and will continue to be – in the development of this carbon pollution standard. We have been working with stakeholders every step of the way to ensure that we have all of the most accurate and up-to-date information possible during the rulemaking process. This public discussion will continue. We’re seeking additional comment and holding public hearings. We know how important it is to get feedback from stakeholders, and I can assure you that the agency will take the input we collect into account as the rulemaking process continues.

The carbon pollution standard we propose today is achievable. It can be met by a variety of facilities that burn different fossil fuels – including natural gas and coal. It is cost-effective, and plays to the strengths of our developing energy market. And most importantly, the standard will help us minimize the carbon released into the atmosphere day after day. It will enhance the lives of our children – and our children’s children.

We know that the potential impacts of climate change touch everything from tourism to agriculture, and will have an extraordinary environmental and economic footprint if allowed to proceed unchecked. And when we see the extraordinary potential for cleaner, cheaper energy for the American people – and the chance to lead a global marketplace for clean energy technology – it is clear that we must take action. This standard isn’t the once-and-for-all solution to our environmental challenges. But it is an important, commonsense step toward tackling the ongoing – and very real – threat of climate change, and protecting the future for generations to come.

Thank you very much.