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The Breakdown

Environmental News Breakdown: New Proposal for Cleaning Up America’s Power Plants

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The Clean Power Plan would limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants for the first time.

­­­The News
On June 2, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the proposal of a “vital piece” of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, namely, the Clean Power Plan. The plan, McCarthy stated, aims “to cut carbon pollution from our power sector by using clean energy sources and cutting energy waste.” If the plan is enacted, states will have until 2017 to propose an approach to reach their required cuts. These cuts will result in a reduction of the carbon emissions produced by American power plants by 30 percent by the year 2030 based on the 2005 emissions levels.

What Does It Mean
Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas like nitrogen oxide and methane, traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere. These gases occur naturally in our atmosphere; however, too much or too little of them can cause severe fluctuation in our climate.

As of 2012, carbon dioxide made up about 82 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. While limits of arsenic, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution produced by power plants are already in place, there is currently no national limit on carbon dioxide emissions.

The proposed emissions cuts mark a significant step toward getting the planet’s carbon dioxide problem under control, but these changes alone will not halt global warming. According to a 2009 study completed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 70 percent to stabilize temperatures. Fortunately for us (and for Mother Nature), other nations around the world are cutting their carbon emissions too, and the emissions cuts proposed here in the U.S. are just one part of President Obama’s plan to address climate change.


What You Can Do
Support the Clean Power Plan proposal by letting your local legislator know that you approve of the changes the EPA hopes to make. The EPA will be hosting a series of public hearings about the Clean Power Plan this July.

While the Clean Power Plan limits emissions for power plants, you have the power to limit your own emissions at home and on the road. Reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling and turning off the fans and air conditioner while you’re at work. Consider purchasing a smart timer so you can prevent your laptop, television, and charging units from using electricity while you’re not at home.

You can also light your home in a smarter way. Lighting your home makes up approximately 10 percent of your electricity bill. Start using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which use 75 percent less energy than the incandescent variety, and shut them off during the day when natural light is plentiful. If you don’t know where to begin, try out the Nature Conservancy’s carbon calculator to gauge your current carbon footprint and find more ways to reduce your carbon production.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of Energy
Scientific American
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

What are some steps you will take to limit your own carbon emissions? Share them in the comments below!

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About the Author
Morgan West
Morgan West
Morgan West works for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. more
  • Ellen G. 3 years ago
    combine errands
  • LEEANN C. 4 years ago
    Love the info
  • Larry S. 5 years ago
    I would recycle regardless of points!
  • Lawrence D. 6 years ago
    Question: I get hundreds of points by clicking my mouse while my computer chews up electricity yet I only get 51 points a week for my actual physical recycling. Don't you eco-freaks kinda get the hypocrisy in all this brain washing? Or are you too far down the rabbit hole?
    • Priscilla P. 6 years ago
      A bit too negative I think! Working together recycling we can make a difference. The points are great, I've used mine many times over now and appreciate the program. Recyclebank is a great program and I support it 100%.