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Biden proposes crackdown on power plant emissions

STORY: The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a sweeping plan to curb the level of carbon dioxide emitted by U.S. power plant, putting the nation’s power industry on a years-long course to install billions of dollars of new equipment or shut down entirely.

It’s one of Biden’s biggest steps so far in his effort to fight climate change, one of his top policy priorities.

The government's proposal sets standards that would push power companies to install carbon capture equipment that can siphon CO2 from a plant’s smokestack before it reaches the atmosphere, or use super-low-emissions hydrogen as a fuel.

The plan would cut carbon emissions from coal plants and new gas plants by 617 million tonnes between 2028 and 2042, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That's the equivalent of annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles.

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U.S. power plants account for nearly a quarter of the nation’s carbon emissions, according to the EPA.

Environment groups praised the move.

But fossil-fuel industry advocates and many Republican-controlled states argue that the curbs represent government overreach and threaten to destabilize the electric grid.

The proposal, which is more than 18 months in the making, reflects constraints imposed on the EPA by the Supreme Court. Last year, justices ruled that the agency cannot impose a system-wide shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but can regulate plants by setting technology-based standards applied on-site.

Biden's proposal, however, is subject to the regulatory rule-making process, including a public comment period. The final rule will have to reflect the public comments and will likely take about a year to be finalized.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has already pushed back. In a Thursday statement, Morrisey said the proposal seems (quote) “designed to scare more coal-fired power plants into retirement” and (quote) “this rule appears to utterly fly in the face of the rule of law.”

The EPA anticipates the proposal will cost the power industry over $10 billion, while yielding health and climate benefits of around $85 billion.