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Government issues strict ultimatum for coal-fired power plants: 'Major game changer for climate action in this country'

The regulations will facilitate maximum transparency in the power industry.

The regulations will facilitate maximum transparency in the power industry.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a new set of rules aimed at reducing pollution emitted from fossil fuel-fired power plants known to contaminate air, water, and land.

The regulations will facilitate maximum transparency in the power industry, requiring plants to capture emissions or cease production. These plants will also be required to reduce toxic wastewater pollutants and safely regulate coal ash in unlined storage ponds.

"One of the biggest environmental challenges facing our nation is manmade pollution — pollution that damages our air, our water, our land," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said at an April 25 news conference about the agency's new regulations. "Not only is this pollution a major threat to public health, but it's pushing our planet to the brink."

According to the EPA, the electric power sector is the second-largest contributor to climate change behind transportation, accounting for over a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. 

Regan said the regulations will decrease pollution and enhance public health while continuing to support a reliable, long-term electricity supply for Americans.

The rules issued are part of President Joe Biden's "historic grand slam" of actions to reduce greenhouse emissions, the first being the 2022 climate law known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

With the U.S. being responsible for producing more carbon emissions than any other country, the IRA was designed to encourage Americansespecially those most disadvantaged and impacted by the effects of climate change — to move away from planet-warming dirty energy sources. It encourages citizens to adopt clean energy and transportation technologies by reducing their costs, thanks to almost $375 billion in climate incentives. 

Together, the new fossil fuel-fired power plant rules and the IRA are steps toward Biden's pledge to halve U.S. greenhouse pollution by 2030 and eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide by 2050.

Through the Biden administration's latest action, it is estimated that 1.38 billion metric tons of carbon pollution will be prevented by 2047, equivalent to the emissions of 328 million gas-powered cars every year. This means fewer premature deaths, asthma cases, and lost work or school days.

The EPA says the new rules will benefit water and drinking resources by reducing mercury emissions by an estimated 1,000 pounds, other air pollutants by seven tons, and fine particles by 770 tons by 2028. The agency also hopes to better protect water and drinking resources by decreasing wastewater pollutants from fossil fuel-fired plants by an estimated 660 million pounds. The rules are also expected to further the use and improvement of carbon capture technologies.

After the hottest year on record in 2023 and with climate-related disasters such as floods and wildfires becoming all too frequent, these regulations are more critical than ever to cool the planet.

Charles Harper, the nonprofit Evergreen Action's power sector senior policy lead, told ABC News in an interview that the regulations are a "major game changer for climate action in this country," adding, "It's a real win for climate change and folks who live on planet Earth."

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