PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin commended the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday for proposing regulations to limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions allowed from new power plants for fossil fuels.
The EPA's action follows a settlement reached by a coalition of states that includes Rhode Island, which required the agency to complete limits on power plant emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The settlement committed the EPA to proposing limits of greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants.
The potential climate protection benefits of the proposed regulations would be significant over time. The regulations would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of new coal-fired power plants by approximately 50 percent during the life of the plants.
"Addressing the threat posed by climate change is one of the most important challenges of our time - one that demands attention, leadership and action at all levels of government and by the private sector," Kilmartin said.
"I commend EPA for issuing these common-sense and cost-effective regulations that will result in substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel power plants. EPA has a continuing legal obligation to take the next step and require existing fossil fuel power plants to reduce their emissions."
In March 2011, Rhode Island and 11 other states agreed to a settlement of the 2006 New York v. EPA litigation requiring the agency to complete greenhouse gas emission standards for modified and new power plants, in addition to existing power plants. The standards proposed by the EPA on Monday partially fulfill the agency's commitments under the settlement. Greenhouse gas emissions pollute the atmosphere in large quantities by adding gases that trap heat and raise the average temperature of the earth. In turn, the gases are changing the climate in Rhode Island and worldwide.
The 2006 litigation was filed by Rhode Island and a coalition of local and state governments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The litigation challenged the EPA's failure to comply with the legal mandate of the federal Clean Air Act to limit emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide as air pollutants released by power plants. The case was a portion of an integrated legal strategy by Kilmartin's office and other states resulting in a Supreme Court decision in 2007 in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are pollutants that are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is fossil fuel-fired power plants. The plants are responsible for 40 percent of the county's man-made carbon dioxide emissions as well as the emission of other pollutants that contribute to haze, acid rain and smog, in addition to the mercury contamination of streams, lakes and fish.