New regulations could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, an amount equal to the emissions from powering more than half of American homes for a year.
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a plan on Monday to reduce power plant emissions as the country gradually switches to other energy sources, USA TODAY reported. President Obama has asked the EPA to finalize the plan by June 2015, after which states will have a year to figure out how to stay within the new regulations.
"By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, as quoted by USA TODAY.
McCarthy added that the proposed plan will enhance innovation and job creation while allowing states to outline feasible goals for their respective needs.
Critics of the plan say the new restrictions will threaten existing jobs, raise prices and slow economic growth.
"This new regulation threatens our economy and does so with an apparent disregard for the livelihoods of our coal miners and thousands of families throughout West Virginia," said Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.V., as quoted by USA TODAY.
For the EPA's part, McCarthy said the plan's opponents have been "crying wolf" for years and are ignoring America's history of innovation.
"We can innovate our way to a better future," McCarthy said. "From the light bulb to the locomotive; from photovoltaic cells to cellphones, America has always turned small steps into giant leaps."
According to the EPA, coal will likely still provide 30 percent of U.S. power by 2030. Declining coal use has helped total U.S. carbon emissions fall by about 10 percent since 2005.
Power plants, which account for about one-third of America's greenhouse gas emissions, have limits on how much arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particle pollution they can release into the air, but there are currently no federal regulations on carbon.