Press Release | April 25, 2024

Biden administration announces historic protections from fossil fuel plants

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced today several new historic protections from pollution from fossil fuel power plants. These critically important safeguards —final rules setting limits on carbon pollution, and strengthening limits on hazardous air pollution and water pollution from power plants, and requiring safe management of coal ash waste at inactive coal plants  — will better protect Southern communities from air, water, and toxic waste pollution and limit carbon dioxide emissions, bringing the nation closer to federal commitments to address the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030.   

Today’s announcement will have huge implications for Southern communities, their health, and quality of life with new federal safeguards aimed at the following:   

  • Limiting carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and new gas-fired plants;   
  • New mercury and air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants;  
  • Protecting groundwater, rivers, lakes, and streams from coal ash waste near aging and retired power plants;  
  • Reducing pollution discharged in wastewater from coal-fired plants;   

“Today is a historic win for Southern communities, checking the power sector’s impact on our climate, mismanagement of toxic waste, and pollution of our air and water,” said SELC President and Executive Director DJ Gerken. “The Biden administration is leaving no room for doubt, our nation is serious about addressing threats from electric utilities and the fossil-fuels to clean air, clean water, and a stable climate. Just as we have for decades, SELC will make sure the South gets the full benefit of these new measures, and push for more solutions that protect our communities and lead the country toward a zero-carbon future.” 

Communities in the South are disproportionately affected by pollution from fossil fuel plants and burdened by some of the country’s highest CO2-emitting power plants. At least 30% of all toxic water pollution from all industries in America comes from coal-fired plants. In the South, the percentage is likely even higher because of the prevalence of polluting coal-fired power plants. There are 20 active coal-fired plants in SELC’s region (Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama) alone. Over the last decade, over 171 coal-fired units have shuttered or are scheduled to be shut down in our region.  

While there have been great strides in the South to address coal ash pollution — the byproduct of burning coal that many utilities across the region have often stored in unlined, leaking pits next to rivers and that are sitting in groundwater — today’s announcement will further codify that progress. This includes strengthening protections against polluted wastewater discharged from coal-fired plants that contain toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead, and instilling more stringent standards for remaining legacy coal ash ponds that continue to leach toxins into water sources for communities in all of our six states.  

At the same time, monopoly utilities in SELC’s region are planning to add nearly 33,000 megawatts of new gas-fired power plants by 2038, with TVA and Duke Energy planning two of the country’s largest new methane gas buildouts. The new greenhouse gas emissions rule is crucial to ensure that the South and the nation achieve real progress in the fight for clean air and a stable climate. The new protections will limit pollution from new gas and give power plant operators the flexibility to cut power plant emissions in a way that is fair to both utilities and their customers. 

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Aisha Dukule

Communications Manager

Phone: (202) 828-8382
Email: [email protected]