On June 25th, at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama issued a stirring call to action on climate change, saying:
As a president, as a father and as an American, I am here to say we need to act. I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.
In that speech, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan — a suite of actions that his Administration will take to curb dangerous emissions of heat-trapping pollutants.
In that Climate Action Plan, the President directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop Carbon Pollution Standards for new and existing power plants.
Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gases in America, and there are currently no federal limits on the amount of climate-destabilizing pollutants that these plants can put into the air.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the attacks on the Carbon Pollution Standards had begun months earlier.
Those attacks included the usual sensational, defeatist, and wholly-unsupported claims designed to delay, deny, and obstruct progress.
Quieter but no less sensational are the attacks launched by the lawyers of obstructionist fossil fuel interests. Hunton & Williams, on behalf of the opaque Utility Air Regulatory Group, is leading the pack.
The legal attacks on the standards for existing power plants effectively boil down to this:
- EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to establish any actual limits on carbon pollution.
- If EPA does have that authority, there are no demonstrated measures to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, so any required emission reductions must at most be "minimal."
In this white paper, we lay out the legal foundation for EPA’s authority to work with the states to ensure implementation of strong and cost-effective Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants.
These standards can support our nation’s transition to a cleaner, safer, smarter power infrastructure and deliver the reductions in carbon pollution we so urgently need.
In the President’s words:
Our progress here will be measured differently, in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.
America is united by these hopes and dreams for a better world. Thanks to the ingenuity of our engineers and inventors, and the skill of our workers, the solutions are at hand to build a cleaner power sector and to use energy more efficiently.
The Clean Air Act provides a framework under which EPA and the states can work together to deploy these solutions. We need only work together — in red states, blue states and purple states alike — to meet this challenge.