The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com)

The EPA today proposed new limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. Environmentalists say the move will be a boon to Floridians, who get about 25 percent of their electricity from coal, but utility reps say the rules will “crush jobs” and arrest America’s economic recovery.

Scientists have long named coal-fired power plants as the primary contributor to global warming worldwide. The gases emitted by power plants are also hazardous to human health, and can lead to respiratory problems. But despite the fact that they are the largest single source of carbon pollution in the U.S., there are currently no federal limits on the pollution coming from power plants.  The standard proposed today will correct that for new power plants, by sharply limiting how carbon dioxide they will be allowed to emit.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set a national standard for smog pollution. The current standard was set at a level that many believe does not adequately protect public health.

Environmentalists, like Environment Florida State Director Aliki Moncrief, applauded the Obama administration for the announcement.

“Today’s proposal from the Obama administration is an historic step in protecting Floridian’s health and our environment,” Moncrief said in a statement. “By setting the first-ever standards for the largest source of the carbon pollution that fuels global warming, President Obama and EPA Administrator [Lisa] Jackson are standing up for Floridians —and putting our health above the demands of the polluter lobby.”

Moncrief says that “polluter lobbyists” will likely “trot out the same tired attacks and tactics,” but won’t be able to halt progress in strengthening emission rules.

Moncrief’s organization released a report last year ranking Pensacola, Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater as Florida’s three smoggiest metropolitan areas. Smog is of particular concern in the summer months, when warmer temperatures lead to increased concentrations of pollution. Environmentalists argue that stricter power plant rules might help stymy the concentrations of smog across the country.

Industry reps, including Hal Quinn of the National Mining Association, denounced the administration’s announcement. “Requiring coal-based power plants to meet an emissions standard based on natural gas technology is a policy overtly calculated to destroy a significant portion of America’s electricity supply,” Quinn told The Los Angeles Times. “This proposal is the latest convoy in EPA’s regulatory train wreck that is rolling across America, crushing jobs and arresting our economic recovery at every stop. It is not an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy.”

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