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Carbon Pollution

carbon pollution

Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption and 40% of carbon pollution comes from power plants. Climate disruption fuels destructive superstorms, extreme floods, widespread wildfires and crippling droughts.

We can’t afford to wait any longer -- now is the time to reduce pollution from America’s power plants, dramatically increase the energy efficiency and renewable energy in our economy, and reduce the threat of climate disruption.


In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to take action to address carbon pollution. The EPA under President Obama made history in the summer of 2012, creating a timeline for carbon pollution protections from both new and existing power plants.  New environmental safeguards will spur innovation and drive the demand for energy efficiency, renewables and the environmental protection industry.  Numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown environmental safeguards create jobs and have a positive impact on the US economy. 


The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution protections for new and existing power plants would limit the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can dump into our air. These safeguards would require energy companies to reduce their carbon emissions using technological innovation and a transition to cleaner sources of energy.

Future Power Plants

In September 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released draft carbon pollution standards for new power plants. If finalized as written, with new coal-fired power plants having to meet a standard of 1,100 lbs of carbon per megawatt hour of energy produced, the draft will make it impossible to build another conventional, climate-destroying coal-burning plant in the United States.

Existing Power Plants

Last fall the EPA began to engage stakeholders on a critical standard for existing power plants, seeking input on how the existing source carbon standard should be designed. The EPA and states will have a broad array of policy design options to consider. The standard will be designed to let states take the lead in drafting their own plans to comply with guidelines EPA puts out.

By establishing strong carbon pollution protections, the EPA is moving to clean up and modernize the way we power our country. These protections will ensure that our kids, our communities and America’s workforce are healthier, while also creating much-needed jobs and fighting climate disruption.


2007: The Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and the EPA must take steps to limit them from our air if it determines that they endanger human health or welfare.

2009: The EPA released its Endangerment Finding, which used a massive body of scientific, peer-reviewed research to show that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.

December 2010: The Sierra Club, NRDC, EDF and a coalition of states led by New York negotiated a settlement agreement with the EPA in which the EPA agreed to propose greenhouse gas performance standards for new and existing power plants that would take effect by May 2012. EPA missed this deadline, but ended up proposing standards for new power plants in April 2012.

April 2012: The EPA proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants. The Sierra Club worked with the environmental community to submit technical comments and provide a large part of the more than 2.5 million public comments submitted.

June 2013: President Obama announced his climate plan and sent a memorandum to EPA laying out a schedule for issuing greenhouse gas performance standards for new and existing power plants, including re-proposal of the new source standard.

September 2013: The EPA released draft carbon pollution standards for future power plants and began seeking comments on its proposal.


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