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US EPA seeks 30-percent cut in CO2

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama is doubling down in the fight against climate change. With Congress refusing to budge, he is poised to unveil sweeping new limits on carbon emissions.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to unveil proposals for drastic cuts in carbon emissions from power plants, which account for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

“But a low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come.”

Even as natural gas gains in popularity, coal remains a key component in the American energy landscape. Wyoming leads the pack of 25 states that mine the fossil fuel, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Hundreds of coal-fired power plants dotted across the country provide about 37 percent of the U.S. electricity supply, ahead of natural gas (30 percent) and nuclear reactors (19 percent).

While the extent of the measures have yet to be disclosed, the main outlines are clear: the administration will set emissions reduction targets for each state and then give them leeway in meeting those caps.

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, citing sources briefed on the plan, said the EPA would seek a 30-percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, as compared with 2005 levels.

States would be given several options for how to achieve the cuts, the reports said.

“There are a lot of very old and inefficient coal power plants,” said Kevin Kennedy of the World Resources Institute in Washington.

“This will be another factor in decisions that utilities will need to take into account as they consider what to operate and what to shut down going forward.”

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