air pollutionsThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants.

The agency says the standard "reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants. At the same time, the rule creates a path forward for new technologies to be deployed at future facilities that will allow companies to burn coal, while emitting less carbon pollution."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, warns that the standard will increase energy costs and be bad for business.

Bruce Josten, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs for the Chamber, said the standard is an attempt to ban the construction of coal-fired plants in the U.S. "Coal is an essential part of a diverse, reliable, and affordable energy mix, supplying nearly 40 percent of our electricity. It remains a cost-effective and secure source of power in a time of soaring energy prices."

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson called the standard a "common-sense step" toward reducing air pollution. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow."

Following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, the EPA in 2009 determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans' health and welfare by causing long lasting changes in the climate.

The standard would not apply to existing units already operating or to units that will begin construction during the next 12 months.

According to the EPA: "The proposed standards can be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Even without today’s action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard."  

Josten charged the proposal with being "rife with legal and structural deficiencies that could ultimately allow the scope of the rule to expand well beyond the entities EPA seeks to regulate." Citing recent court decisions that went against the EPA, he said the Chamber will be "evaluating all of its options" to overturn the rule if it is issued.  

The comment period on the standard will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.