Statement: A.G. Schneiderman Commends EPA's Landmark Proposal To Cut Climate Change Pollution From Existing Power Plants

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of proposed Clean Air Act rules limiting emissions of climate change pollution by existing fossil-fuel power plants:  

“Climate change poses a real and present danger to the people, environment, and economy of New York. I commend President Obama for recognizing the unprecedented threat of climate change and acting decisively on the Clean Air Act’s legal mandate that greenhouse gas pollutants be controlled. Today’s landmark proposal would – for the first time – limit climate change pollution from the nation’s single largest source, existing fossil-fueled power plants. It would also leverage state-proven methods of cutting climate change pollution by offering states and power companies flexibility in fashioning strategies to achieve needed reductions. I look forward to continuing to fight for the health and welfare of New Yorkers by supporting this and other fair, sensible, and necessary actions to combat climate change.”   

Background           

Climate Change and its Threat to New Yorkers

Climate change, and its substantial threat to the environment, public health and the economy, is well-established. Recent national and international scientific reports have documented human activities as the primary cause of climate change, as well as the profound impacts that this change has had – and will increasingly have – on our environment, including summer heat waves, rising sea levels, and increasingly severe storms.  

The power of Hurricane Sandy provides a stark example of the devastation wrought by severe storms: 147 deaths, at least 650,000 homes damaged or destroyed and approximately 8.5 million families left without power.  The extended power outages and other infrastructure failures in the New York City metropolitan area alone were estimated to cause between $30 billion and $50 billion dollars in lost economic activity. While no single storm can be definitively attributed to climate change, Sandy is a testament to the tremendous impact that more powerful and destructive storms can wreak on our communities.

Hotter temperatures resulting from increasing climate change will also lead to more smog – air pollution that is already threatening the health of millions of New Yorkers.           

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Leadership Role in Today’s Announcement

In March 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman, leading a coalition of states and cities, reached final settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a 2006 action brought over EPA’s failure to set limits on emissions of climate change pollution from power plants.  The settlement of New York v. EPA resulted in a schedule for EPA to set these limits, leading to EPA’s proposal in September 2013 to limit climate change pollution from new power plants and the proposal announced by President Obama today to limit emissions of this pollution by existing power plants.  

The U.S. Supreme Court cited EPA’s commitment in the 2011 settlement with Attorney General Schneiderman and his coalition in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, a case brought by New York and other states against the nation’s largest power companies.  In that case, the Court specifically recognized EPA’s authority and responsibility under the Clean Air Act to curb power plant greenhouse gas emissions that endanger public health or welfare.  Along with the limits EPA proposed in September 2013 for new power plants, today’s proposal for limiting emissions from existing power plants moves EPA towards fulfilling its obligations under the Clean Air Act.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: New York’s Successful Model for Cutting Power Plant Climate Change Pollution 

Since 2008, New York State and a group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states have participated in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based approach to reducing emissions of climate change pollution from fossil-fuel fired power plants – which, in New York, account for roughly one-fifth of all such pollution generated in the state.  

RGGI is a “carbon trading” program, under which power plant emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are capped, plants must obtain sufficient emission allowances to cover their current emissions, and plants that reduce these emissions may sell “excess” allowances to other power companies.  Proceeds from auctions of these allowances support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other climate change pollution reduction and climate protection efforts in New York.   

RGGI is a national model of how climate change pollution can be cut effectively – and with substantial economic benefits. A study conducted by the independent economic consulting firm Analysis Group concluded that RGGI added $1.6 billion to the economies, and 16,000 new jobs, in the participating states. The study also projected that RGGI will provide consumers in these states with $1.3 billion in savings on their electric bills over the next decade through energy efficiency measures using funds generated by the program.

Attorney General Schneiderman successfully defended the RGGI program from legal attack earlier this year in state court. 

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