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Political Debate Swirls Around EPA Carbon-Reduction Rule

PHOTO: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy unveiled a proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Virginia would need to reduce it's emissions by 37 percent. Photo courtesy of the EPA.
PHOTO: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy unveiled a proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Virginia would need to reduce it's emissions by 37 percent. Photo courtesy of the EPA.
June 3, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. - The proposed rules for controlling carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants unveiled Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ignited some fiery debate in coal country.

Virginia is heavily dependent on coal for electricity, and supplies most of its own coal. To meet the new guidelines, state emissions have to be cut by 37 percent. Joshua Saks, the Legislative Director for the National Wildlife Federation, predicted the debate will be long in the coming months, but noted the rule has been a long time in the making, too.

"This is about the president following the law," said Saks. "This is about a decision made by a conservative Supreme Court and an endangerment finding made by the Bush Environmental Protection Agency."

The National Wildlife Federation supports the EPA proposal, and has produced several reports showing how a changing climate is affecting wildlife, outdoor recreation and public health.

Under the new rule, states are granted flexibility in how they meet their reduction goals, whether utilizing energy efficiency strategies, adding more renewables to their state's energy grid, or requiring pollution controls at power plants. Nationally, the goal is a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned there would be massive job losses if the rule is adopted. At a Monday news conference, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy countered the rule brings new economic opportunities, and said it is irresponsible to ignore the health problems connected to coal-plant pollution and accelerated climate change caused by carbon dioxide.

"One in 10 kids in the U.S. suffers from asthma," McCarthy said. "Carbon pollution from power plants comes packaged with dangerous pollutants, and they put our children and our families at even more risk."

She predicted the reductions would mean 150,000 asthma attacks in children and 6,600 premature deaths would be prevented.

The EPA proposal and related fact sheets are on its website.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - VA