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June 2, 2014

EPA to seek to cut power plant carbon by one-third

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday will roll out a plan to cut earth-warming pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030, setting in motion one of the most significant actions to address global warming in U.S. history.

The rule, which is expected to be final next year, will set the first national limits on carbon dioxide, the chief gas linked to global warming from the nation’s power plants. They are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for about a third of the annual emissions that make the U.S. the second largest contributor to global warming on the planet.

The regulation is a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce the pollution linked to global warming, a step that the administration hopes will get other countries to act when negotiations on a new international treaty resume next year.

“The purpose of this rule is to really close the loophole on carbon pollution, reduce emissions as we’ve done with lead, arsenic and mercury and improve the health of the American people and unleash a new economic opportunity,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has drafted a plan that informed the EPA proposal.

Yet the rule carries significant political and legal risks, by further diminishing coal’s role in producing U.S. electricity. Once the dominant source of energy in the U.S., coal now supplies just under 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, as it has been replaced by booming supplies of natural gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, said Sunday that the regulation is “really designed to drive out low-cost electricity and replace it with higher-cost, more expensive and less reliable electricity.”

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