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Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at Resources for the Future on the Clean Power Plan, As Prepared

It's great to be here to talk to you. We've made some incredible progress together. The Clean Power Plan was a big lift and I want to commend everybody at EPA who spent countless hours on this final plan and the many comments we received that significantly influenced this outcome.

We all have to acknowledge that the effort was worth the lift. Because climate change is one of the most important issues that we face. It’s a global challenge, but in many ways it’s also very personal. It affects everything and everyone we know and love: our kids, our communities, even our ability to earn a decent living.

By now, we all know that climate change is driven in large part by carbon pollution, and it leads to more extreme heat, cold, storms, fires, and floods. For farmers who are strained by drought, for families with homes in the path of a wildfire, for small businesses along on our coastlines, climate change is indeed very personal. And we know carbon pollution comes packaged with smog and soot forming pollutants that can lead to lung and heart disease. That threatens our kids’ health directly.

So for parents everywhere, and for moms like me, you know that climate change is personal. You got involved, and I thank you for it. The bottom line is, no matter who you are, where you live, or what you care about, climate change is affecting you and your family today.

We are way past any further debate. Scientists are as sure that humans are causing climate change as they are that cigarette smoke causes lung cancer. It's our moral responsibility to act. That responsibility is crystal clear. And that is why we have taken action.

Last week President Obama announced EPA’s Clean Power Plan—the biggest step our country has ever taken to fight climate change and to protect this planet.He reminded us that while we are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, we are the last that can effectively do something about it. He’s right.

I’m so proud to be working for this President. And I’m so excited that our country has stepped up. I can stand here today and say: we are doing something about it. For so long, many of us have worked toward this very moment—not just in government, but in states, communities, organizations and business across America.

We already limit toxics, as well smog- and soot-forming pollutants from our power plants. Now, we have standards for carbon pollution as well. For the first time in history, the Clean Power Plan sets those limits. And it sets them in commonsense, achievable ways that will protect our kids’ health. America’s transition to a clean energy future is already happening. The Clean Power Plan is going to drive that forward and accelerate that progress even more.

With our plan, the nation is on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030—all while keeping energy reliable and affordable.

The cuts to smog and soot that come along with these reductions will bring major health benefits for American families. In 2030, emissions of SO2 from power plants will drop 90% compared to 2005 levels. And emissions of NOX from power plants will drop 72% compared 2005 levels.

Not just as a result of this plan—but as a result of six years of concerted effort to do what the Clean Air Act says we must do and protect public health and the safety of our communities—in 2030, we’re going to avoid thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions, tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and hundreds of thousands of missed school days and missed work days.

At the same time, in 2030, the average American family will see $85 in savings on their utility bills. All told, climate benefits from the Clean Power Plan will save the country billions of dollars, and far, far outweigh its costs. It’s a win all around.

Here’s how it works. The Clean Power Plan sets uniform emissions rates for power plants that are alike across the country. We use the same rate for every coal-fired plant, no matter what state it’s in and we use the same rate for gas-fired plants. This guarantees that there is equity and fairness across the board. It is how we do our business. But we know every state isn’t starting in the same place. Some states generate more of their power from renewables, some from natural gas, nuclear, coal, and so on.

Along with the uniform rates, our plan sets pollution reduction goals that are unique to each state, based on their energy mix. With these goals, we’re giving states the flexibility they need to meet requirements in whatever customized way they want to do so. Whatever works best for them, works best for the country.

They can run their more efficient plants more often, or draw more electricity from cleaner fuels, or they can take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities. No plant has to do this alone, and no state has to do this alone. They have all the resources of the grid at their disposal.

And at the request of many states, we’re even providing a model rule that states can just take and adopt right away—if they want to. It’s easy and it can happen right away. It’s focused on emissions trading so that states and plants can leverage the power of the market to multiply options and to minimize costs. It’s a ready-made option guaranteed to get states where they need be. That’s why economists like it.

The point is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Our plan puts utilities and states where they belong: in the drivers’ seat.

So what happens next? At EPA, we’ll start seeing initial plans from states in 2016. And they’ll start making mandatory carbon-pollution cuts in 2022. The good news is, we won’t need to wait until 2030 to start seeing the plan’s benefits.

Many power companies are already investing to modernize their plants and reduce emissions, more than 35 states have already set renewable energy targets, and mayors in over a thousand cities have already committed to cut carbon pollution.

We want to encourage these early wins. So we’ve created a clean energy incentive program to help states get ahead of the curve, and jump start their emissions-reductions as soon as 2020. This path forward is reasonable. It’s affordable. And we know it can be done.

How do we know? Because it’s not EPA's first rodeo. We know that right now, there are special-interest critics who are dusting off their same-old tired playbooks.

They’ll say we’ve got to focus on the economy, at the expense of the environment. They’ll claim our plan will shut the lights off, or send utility bills through the roof. Well, they are absolutely wrong.

They were wrong in the ‘90s, when they said exactly the same thing to oppose our limits on the pollution that caused acid rain. Maybe some of you remember—they predicted total doomsday. That didn’t happen. Instead we slashed acid rain by 60 percent, while prices stayed stable, and the lights stayed on.

They’ll say that our transition to cleaner energy system will kill jobs. Well, I’m not sure they’ve been following the economics as well as they should, because the solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And, by the way, over the last 40 years, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent—while our economy has tripled.

No one should be saying that we have to move the economy forward at the expense of the environment. It’s been proven time and again: a healthy environment is the foundation of a strong economy. Stale claims saying otherwise will fall far short of their mark. Because by now, the American people have 40 years of history to rely on, and the American people will know better than to listen to these doomsday scenarios.

I want to make clear that EPA’s plan isn’t just about what we avoid—though we all know that climate change is impacting us today and will continue to impact us if we don’t take action—it’s also about what we all gain. Our plan is projected to lead to up to $45 billion a year in net benefits in 2030. In that same year, the average American family will start seeing $85 in annual savings on their utility bills. Let me repeat, savings.This plan will protect Americans’ health and their pocketbooks. Frankly, we wouldn’t accept anything less.

You know, one of the main ways we’ve gotten here has been by listening. We received feedback from millions of people on our draft plan—from states, utilities, communities, and more. In fact, 4.3 million public comments and hundreds of meetings with stakeholders helped us get to a plan that we know works for everyone. It was feedback from utilities that made sure our plan mirrors how electricity moves around the grid, so that we could open up opportunities.

It was input from states that made sure we set fair and consistent standards across the country. And it was comments from lots of folks that told us that we needed to extend the timeframe for mandatory cuts by two years, until 2022. We knew we didn’t have to wait until 2022 to entice reductions using federal leverage. So that’s what we put together. States and utilities told us they needed more time, and we listened.

The final plan reflects the needs and voices of our stakeholders. And as a result, it’s stronger. It’s Clean Air Act strong. That’s why I’m confident our work will not be undone. With so many new voices at the table—we know that Americans want solutions. We know they want this type of leadership and we know that they’re ready for action.

So, I want to finish up by reminding you just what the clean power plan means moving forward. It means $45 billion dollars in net benefits for the United States in 2030. It means $85 a year in savings on our utility bills in 2030. It means driving innovation and creating new jobs. It means riding and accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy even faster than it’s already happening.

As a result – it will mean less suffering. We’ll see thousands fewer premature deaths, asthma attacks, and missed school days and work days.

It means a brighter future for our kids and, in particular, for the most vulnerable in our communities who are already susceptible to the challenge of climate change and need leadership to ensure that their health, livelihoods, and children are protected.

And as we look ahead to Paris, it means showing the world just what’s possible when you join the fight. Because climate change is a challenge that we can and must conquer together. So now we move to implementation phase. States are getting busy putting their plans together. And we’re here to support them every step of the way. Let’s get to work. Thank you.