Sanders Introduces Legislation to Cut Power Plant Pollution

Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to curb power plant emissions that cause global warming and endanger public health.

"Power plants are the No. 1 source of global warming pollution in the United States," Sanders said. "While Congress must work toward an economy-wide approach to global warming, there is no reason that power plants should not begin reducing their greenhouse gas emissions now."

WASHINGTON, April 24 - Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to curb power plant emissions that cause global warming and endanger public health.

"Power plants are the No. 1 source of global warming pollution in the United States," Sanders said. "While Congress must work toward an economy-wide approach to global warming, there is no reason that power plants should not begin reducing their greenhouse gas emissions now."

More than 40 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States come from power plants, according to Sanders, who sits on both the Senate environment and energy committees. "While we have to look for reductions across all sectors of the economy, it makes sense to focus on cleaning up our biggest problems first," he said.

Senator Patrick Leahy is an original cosponsor of the bill patterned after legislation by Sanders' predecessor, Senator James Jeffords. Other cosponsors are Senators Russ Feingold and Joe Lieberman.

Under current Environmental Protection Agency regulations, power plants are reducing smog, soot and mercury pollution. The technology exists, however, for power plants to make greater reductions necessary for states to meet air quality standards and protect public health. The Clean Power Act of 2007 would achieve dramatic reductions of four major pollutants emitted by power plants - carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Under the bill:

  • Carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced to 2.3 billion metric tons by 2011 (2006 levels), 2.1 billion metric tons by 2015, 1.8 billion metric tons by 2020 (1990 levels) and 1.5 billion metric tons by 2025 (17 percent below 1990 levels).
  • Nitrogen oxide emissions would be reduced to 1.5 million tons by 2010 and 900,000 tons by 2013.
  • Sulfur dioxide emissions would be reduced to 2.25 million tons by 2010 and 1.3 million tons by 2013.
  • Mercury emissions would be capped at 5 tons with no trading allowed.

"The dangerous health effects of mercury, particularly to children and pregnant women, are well-known. Mercury levels are so high in some fish caught in Vermont and across New England that we are advised not to eat them," Sanders said. "We need to reduce these public health threats and at the same time transform our energy sources to cleaner, more renewable types of energy."

Sanders' bill details a cap-and-trade approach for reducing carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions. The legislation also would speed up the technological research, development and deployment necessary to transform the power sector.

The Clean Power Act of 2007 also links power plants to an economy-wide reduction of pollutants responsible for global warming. If Congress fails to pass legislation affecting at least 85 percent of manmade sources of global warming pollutants by 2012, then emissions from power plants must be decreased each year by 3 percent.

National organizations supporting the legislation include the American Lung Association; National Wildlife Federation; Environmental Defense; National Environmental Trust; Clean Air Task Force; U.S. Public Interest Research Group; Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

To view a copy of the bill click here.To read a one page summary of the Clean Power Act click here.To read the Senators statement on the Clean Power Act click here.