The US government has proposed a climate initiative to drastically reduce the emissions associated with power generation. The proposal will apply to coal and natural gas power plants.

The new carbon pollution standards, which were released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday, avoid up to 617 million metric tonnes of total carbon dioxide between 2028 and 2042.

The proposal will impose greenhouse gas limits on new and existing power plants depending on the type of power plant and its lifespan. The agency will now open a 60-day comment period.

According to the EPA, it will enact the measures in order to reduce pollution and improve human health. The agency claims that the measures will prevent approximately 1,300 premature deaths, more than 800 hospital and emergency healthcare visits and more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks in 2030 alone. The EPA estimates that the health benefits will indirectly save the country’s economy approximately $85bn.

“By proposing new standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants, the EPA is delivering on its mission to reduce harmful pollution that threatens people’s health and wellbeing”, agency administrator Michael S Regan said in a statement.

The US power industry emits approximately one-quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, using coal and gas as its primary resources.

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Wide-spread adoption of carbon capture technologies, which can remove 90% of emissions, will be encouraged. Renewable technologies and co-firing with hydrogen are also expected to see uptake. According to the EPA these new technologies have been “proven” and are “readily available”.

“Move toward a cleaner future”

The EPA promotes “green hydrogen technologies” as alternative power sources, but does not offer any specifics over production of this.

The EPA has not yet outlined specific targets or regulations. Critics have accused the body of being too strict, claiming that the measures may affect economies centred around coal mining.

A number have already raised concerns. Opposition senator Shelley Moore Capito claimed that the measures are “the Biden administration’s most blatant attempt yet to close down power plants and kill American energy jobs”.

The EPA estimated that the power industry will need to spend over $10bn to implement the new measures. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reports that prices may rise by an average of 2% by 2030 as a result of the new guidelines.

White House climate advisor Ali Zaidi told reporters that the measures will ensure that the US meets its net zero targets by 2035. However, the details on how this will happen remain unclear.

According to Regan these measures “seize the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future”. He went on: “Alongside historic investment taking place across America in clean energy manufacturing and deployment, these proposals will help deliver tremendous benefits”.