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Editorial: EPA moves needle on greenhouse gases

We have been talking and talking about what we can and cannot do when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases over the past few years.

Unfortunately, much of the talk about reducing carbon emissions — a major source of these gases — has been not much more than a lot of hot air.

If nothing else, the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft regulations unveiled this week could provide a strong breeze that pushes the nation away from this stagnation, and that in turn could be something for the common good.

The EPA now has a target date of 2030 for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the coal plants that are now in operation The goal? Up to 30 percent less than 2005 levels for emissions.

And the agency expects to have this happen using a flexible enough approach that the states, utilities and public can work together. We see it as allowing enough room for the states to devise their own plan within an overarching goal of cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gases.

As one might expect in our environmental and political climates these days, the naysayers have come out quickly to say that these regulations will do more harm than good. It’s claimed to be job-killing and economy-damaging. Consumers are also being told that their bills for electricity are going to jump.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says this isn’t true, and argues that the regulations will help do the opposite.

“This is about protecting local economies and jobs,” he said

McCarthy pointed out that’s what is needed now is a can-do outlook. “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.”

And just as important, it’s about health.

For every $1 invested in complying with the rule, Americans would reap $7 in health benefits, the EPA estimates. It can do so, the agency says, because in cutting soot, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, we would be reducing contributors to heart and lung illnesses.

We don’t necessarily see this as a cure-all for what ails the nation. But we cannot just continue to let disagreement over direction trump the need to act.

What the EPA draft regulations represent is not a dictatorial stance by the Obama administration but an effort to work together with all interested parties to achieve cleaner air.

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