EPA to Seek 30% Cut in Emissions at Power Plants

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Plan Sets in Motion Main Piece of President’s Climate-Change Agenda.

The Environmental Protection Agency will propose mandating power plants cut U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions 30% by 2030 from levels of 25 years earlier, according to people briefed on the rule, an ambitious target that marks the first-ever attempt at limiting such pollution.

The rule-making proposal, to be unveiled Monday, sets in motion the main piece of President Barack Obama’s climate-change agenda and is designed to give states and power companies flexibility in reaching the target. But it also will face political resistance and become fodder in midterm congressional races, particularly in energy-producing states, and is destined to trigger lawsuits from states and industry that oppose it.

The rule would affect hundreds of fossil-fuel power plants—hitting the nation’s roughly 600 coal-fired plants the hardest. The carbon framework seeks to strike a balance between what environmentalists want—an ambitious overall target—with what the utility industry wants—flexibility, a long compliance timeline and an earlier base-year calculation from which to meet the goal. Carbon emissions have dropped since 2005, making the overall reduction smaller when compared with recent years.

For the president, the rule is a major element of his attempt to secure a second-term legacy. While Mr. Obama is expected to remain out of the spotlight when the EPA unveils the rule Monday, he plans to join a conference call with the American Lung Association, casting the rule as needed to protect public health as well as to reduce the carbon emissions that scientists say contribute to climate change.

The rule, scheduled to be completed a year from now, will give flexibility to the states, which must implement them and submit compliance plans to the EPA by June 2016. States can decide how to meet the reductions, including joining or creating new cap-and-trade programs—which allow companies to trade allowances or credits for emissions—deploying more renewable energy or ramping up energy-efficiency technologies.

Each state will have different reduction standards, and the national average will be 25% by 2020 and 30% by 2030, people familiar with the proposal said.

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