My climate confession: I assumed we had limits on power plant pollution

Benjamin Schneider

Should we have reasonable limits on carbon pollution from power plants, or no limits at all? That’s the question now facing the United States, and one many Americans probably never before thought to ask – including me.

As someone in his mid-thirties who’s been worried about climate change pretty much his whole life, that’s a little embarrassing to admit. Even before I started here at Environmental Defense Fund, I followed climate policy battles closely. I was a reporter covering the United States Senate when the Climate Change Act of 2008 stalled there. And from my PR firm in 2010, my heart sank as I watched the 2010 Act die in the Upper Chamber, as well.

Those defeats were a wakeup call. I decided I had to do more in the fight against climate change. And for almost three years now, I’ve had the privilege to do that as part of the climate communications team here at EDF.

I knew I had a lot to learn when I started here, but I was still shocked when I learned the truth about power plants. As of right now, there are no national limits on carbon pollution from power plants at all. Zero limits, despite their being the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.

I think most of you, like me, read those words and want to take action. And this year, we have that chance. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed America’s first-ever national standards on carbon pollution from new power plants. And this summer, they’re expected to propose the first national pollution limits on power plants that already exist.

These standards are a common sense step that will ensure cleaner power generation that helps protect our children from dangerous pollution and our communities from extreme weather. They will also drive innovation, so that America can continue to lead the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies. But coal lobbyists are spending millions to block this needed action.

The significance of these rules cannot be overstated – There is nothing more important this year in our efforts to avoid climate catastrophe than getting these pollution standards right. With your help, we can stand up to the utility industries and their political allies and support their implementation.

It’s true that we have a long way to go on the fight against climate change, but you can rest assured we are indeed fighting hard, on the power plant standards and everywhere we are needed. We are supporting President Obama’s push for greater fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for America’s heavy-duty trucks. Just last month, we scored a major victory when EPA announced new tailpipe and gasoline standards we had pushed for. These standards will cut car pollution and save thousands of lives every year. Meanwhile, we’re asking the High Court to reinstate the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which protects downwind states from the dangerous pollution that blows across their borders.

With all that’s at stake, 2014 is turning out to be a pivotal year for us. A victory from this week proves success is possible: EDF helped defend and uphold the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in the D.C. Court of Appeals, standards that would put the first-ever limits on some particularly nasty air pollution from power plants. With your support, I know we can achieve even more great things.