EPA chief: Greenhouse gas cuts won’t all come from power plants

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at an event last month in Washington.

(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

The ambitious reductions to greenhouse gases that President Obama pledged in China last week will not lead to deeper emissions cuts at power plants, according to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

At a Beijing summit where China and the United States unveiled plans to address climate change, Obama said that by 2025, the United States would curb its heat-trapping emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels.

Some analysts have speculated that to fulfill the pledge, the U.S. could require power plants to cut their greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 2005 levels by 2030. In June, the EPA proposed cuts of 30% by 2030. A 40% cut could mean greater pollution reduction by 2025.

While American actions so far to curtail emissions gave the president the credibility to negotiate with the Chinese, the overall reduction to U.S. emissions by 2025 would not be driven solely by regulation of power generation, McCarthy told reporters Monday.


“We are not going to craft a final rule that is trying to achieve a certain level or a certain timing that is dictated by the climate goal that was recently released by the president,” she said. “It will be dictated by what we have seen in the data, what the comments have said, what is the most reasonable and achievable but aggressive goal that we can move on.”

McCarthy said the 2025 limits the president aimed for “were set by a variety of actions, not just this one.”

The EPA is working with other agencies, states and the private sector to identify new rules and voluntary measures that would help the U.S. achieve the 2025 goal the president set, McCarthy said.

The administration is already working with China to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a coolant used in consumer goods and propellant in aerosols that is also a powerful greenhouse gas. The EPA is expected to introduce by Dec. 21 steps to curtail leaks of methane, another potent heat-trapping emission. The agency could also move to cut greenhouse gases from oil refineries.


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