Power plants are the number one source of global warming pollution in the United States. While Congress must work toward an economy-wide approach to addressing global warming, there is no reason that power plants should not begin reducing their greenhouse gas emissions now, at the same time they are reducing emissions of other air pollutants.
Under current EPA regulations, power plants are putting on some controls to reduce smog, soot and mercury pollution. The technology exists, however, for power plants to make deeper reductions - reductions that will be more protective of the public health and the environment. In fact, deeper reductions are needed for states to meet air quality standards that will reduce asthma attacks, premature death, and other health problems, as well as protect sensitive groups, such as children and pregnant women, from mercury poisoning.
The Clean Power Act of 2007 will achieve dramatic reductions of four major pollutants emitted by power plants - carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury - and set the power sector on a course to meet the nation's targets for reducing global warming pollution from all sectors. Specifically, my bill would achieve the following emission reductions:
- 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% 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 facility-specific reductions of at least 90% capture, and no trading would be allowed.
The bill uses a cap-and-trade approach for reducing carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions. Allowances equal to the caps would be distributed as follows:
- For carbon dioxide, an increasing percentage of allowances would be auctioned, starting with at least 50% for 2020 and moving up to 100% in 15 years, with updating of allowance allocations every five years. Those allowances not auctioned would be allocated by EPA based on specified considerations, including impacts on electricity consumers.
- For nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides, allowances would be allocated consistent with current law until 2012 and at EPA's discretion thereafter.
My bill would also speed up the technological research, development and deployment necessary to transform the power sector for the 21st Century by:
- Establishing carbon dioxide performance standards for new power plants that would prevent the construction of traditional carbon dioxide-intensive coal plants.
- Establishing a program to fully deploy geologic carbon sequestration.
- Reducing electricity use by establishing an efficiency program that would reduce energy use by 9% by 2020.
- Increasing the use of renewable electricity by establishing a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 20% by 2020.
The Clean Power Act of 2007 also makes specific linkages to an economy-wide reduction of pollutants responsible for global warming. It accomplishes this by specifying that if Congress has not passed, and the President has not signed, legislation affecting at least 85% of manmade sources of global warming pollutants by 2012, that the emissions from power plants must be decreased each year by 3% until atmospheric concentrations of global warming pollutants are stabilized at 450 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent.