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On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its Clean Power Plan, the first time the United States has set standards to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. The Plan sets emissions reduction goals for individual states; once the goals are finalized next year, states will develop plans to achieve the necessary reductions. EPA’s modeling indicates that the standards will reduce national carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

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The EPA's proposed rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants is a critical step in avoiding the worst consequences of global warming. Without significant reductions from the power sector—America’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions—the country cannot meet its goal of reducing its emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. EPA’s proposal provides a flexible framework that puts those reductions within reach.

Here’s a look at how the proposed rule would impact states and the future of U.S. climate action.

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To this day, carbon pollution—the main driver of climate change—has not been controlled from power plants.

That’s why the U.S. EPA’s new rules are so momentous, putting federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time. With the power sector representing a third of America’s carbon footprint, these rules are the biggest single action the administration can take to drive down greenhouse gases.

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On June 2, President Obama will unveil the latest—and likely greatest—emissions reduction policy since he announced his Climate Action Plan last year: new rules to limit carbon dioxide pollution from existing power plants. With power plants accounting for around one-third of U.S. emissions, these rules will address the country’s single-largest source of greenhouse gas pollution.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions on what these standards are designed to achieve, the impact they will have, and why they’re so important. This blog highlights some of the most important aspects of these crucial actions.

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Arkansas has already taken steps to reduce its near-term power sector CO2 emissions by implementing energy efficiency policies. And the state has the opportunity to go even further. In fact, new WRI analysis finds that Arkansas can reduce its CO2 emissions 39 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 by implementing new clean energy strategies and taking advantage of existing infrastructure. Achieving these reductions will allow Arkansas to meet moderately ambitious EPA power plant emissions standards, which are due to be finalized in 2015.

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In the State of the Union address last night, President Obama called to make this “a year of action.” Addressing climate change will require his administration to make that call a reality.

The most important task the administration can take is to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for existing power plants—a move that the President highlighted in his speech last night. Ambitious power plant standards are a critical starting point if the United States is to rise to the climate change challenge.

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When President Obama addresses the nation later today, climate change is expected to be featured. The president recently said that one of his personal passions is “leaving a planet that is as spectacular as the one we inherited from our parents and our grandparents.” The next two years will determine if his administration can meet this standard.

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Thanks to efforts to reduce its coal use, Minnesota is producing more power while decreasing its carbon dioxide pollution. But the state has the potential to go even further.

New WRI analysis finds that Minnesota can reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 31 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 just by complying with its current policies and taking advantage of existing infrastructure opportunities. Achieving these reductions will allow Minnesota to meet potentially ambitious EPA power plant emissions standards, which are due to be finalized next year.

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