The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a plan Monday to cut carbon emission from existing power plants by 30 percent, compared to 2005 levels.
The EPA said power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.
The plan will move the U.S. toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change, the EPA announcement said.
"Climate change fueled by carbon pollution supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said.
The Nebraska congressional delegation immediately criticized the plan. Sen. Mike Johanns said early estimates predict the rule would cost as much as $50 billion and nearly 225,000 jobs annually, and drive more manufacturers overseas.
But McCarthy said “We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. Our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs."
Power plants account for roughly one-third of domestic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA announcement.
The EPA already limits arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particle emissions from power plants, but there are no national limits on carbon emissions.
The plan would “avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days — providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits,” the EPA said.
The EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings during the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh.
EPA plans to finalize the standards in June 2015. The schedule was laid out in a June 2013 presidential memorandum.
It’s “bad news for American families who will face higher utility rates and lost jobs as manufacturers move overseas in search of cheap, reliable electricity,” Johanns said.
“Finally, one of President Obama’s plans will work as he intended — making electricity rates ‘necessarily skyrocket’ as he promised on the campaign trail,” he said.
“We can all agree that clean air is worth fighting for, but the President seems to imagine a bubble over the U.S., as if pollution from other countries that generate more and regulate less, don’t reach our environment,” Johanns said. “This reckless and ineffective rule will have little or no impact on our environment, yet take a devastating toll on our economy.”
Rep. Adrian Smith said “the costs of retrofitting power plants and the increased costs of producing electricity will be disastrous for manufacturing, agriculture, and especially for low- and middle-income Americans who can least afford huge increases in their electric bills.”
Sen. Deb Fischer said a recent study suggests EPA’s new regulations could drive up yearly electric bills by an average of $200 per family.
Citing a different statistic than Johanns, Fischer said nearly 250,000 jobs could be lost through 2030.
“In Nebraska alone, coal-related industries are responsible for almost 23,000 jobs and generate nearly $4.9 billion in economic output,” she said.