The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose new rules soon that would limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. The proposals come nearly a year after the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA in West Virginia v. EPA. UCLA experts describe the proposal as a win for the environment and the agency.
Designed to withstand inevitable lawsuits
Cara Horowitz is executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law, and an expert on legal and policy solutions to climate change and related environmental issues. She was formerly a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“This set of rules works hand in glove with the Inflation Reduction Act in interesting ways. The IRA makes carbon capture technology more affordable and available, and now EPA can point to those advances in justifying more ambitious standards. It’s a nicely synced strategy. Of course, red states and others will file suits challenging this rule as soon as it is final. But the Clean Air Act tells EPA to regulate climate pollution from dirty power plants, and the Supreme Court told EPA to do so using technology applied at the site of those plants. EPA’s proposal checks those boxes.”
Less flexibility, but within EPA authority
William Boyd is professor of law at UCLA School of Law and at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, as well as faculty co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. He is actively involved in climate, energy and environmental policy matters at multiple levels of governance.
“EPA has done its homework and crafted a set of rules that fit within the constraints of West Virginia v. EPA. Rather than regulating the grid as one big machine, as the Clean Power Plan tried to do, the new rules stay inside the fenceline of individual power plants and use new control technologies to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for coal and gas plants. Although these new rules are not as flexible as the Clean Power Plan, they fit squarely within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to impose the best system of emissions reduction on new and existing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Cleaner air, especially for communities near power plants
UCLA environmental health professor Yifang Zhu has expertise in air pollution, climate change, environmental exposure assessment and aerosols. She is senior associate dean for academic programs in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
“The new rules aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas–fired power plants are an essential and long-awaited measure to mitigate the severe health impacts of climate change and air pollution. These types of power plants are significant sources of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that harm human health. By reducing these emissions, the administration can make significant strides in protecting public health, especially for those living in communities near these power plants.”
Protecting the planet and health
Suzanne Paulson is an air quality researcher who studies urban air pollution, smog formation, exposure based on distance from pollution sources, and other atmospheric environmental problems. She is a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and the director of the UCLA Center for Clean Air.
“Fossil fuel–based power plants contribute to multiple air pollution issues, contributing around a quarter of the U.S.’s climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions. They also release air pollutants, including particulate matter, mercury, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, with the oldest plants contributing the most. These EPA rules would move us closer to our climate goals and help head off the worst climate change impacts, including sea level rise, melting ice, changing rain patterns, more extreme weather, wildfires and human conflict. More than 95% of the U.S. population breathes air with particulate matter pollution that is above the World Health Organization standard, so these changes will bring direct short-term health benefits as well.”