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Emissions controls will soon be getting tougher as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to tighten greenhouse gas emission standards for coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

The agency, which is taking the action under the Clean Air Act in 2011, said “fossil fuel power plants” and petroleum refineries are two of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions. EPA said those sources emit “nearly 40 percent of the (greenhouse gas) pollution in the United States.”

The schedule issued in the Dec. 23 agreements provides a clear path forward for these sectors and is part of EPA’s common-sense approach to addressing greenhouse gas emissions from the largest industrial pollution sources, according to the EPA.

“We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce (greenhouse gas) pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans, and contributes to climate change,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “These standards will help American companies attract private investment to the clean-energy upgrades that make our companies more competitive and create good jobs here at home.”

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The agency said several states, local governments and environmental organizations have sued EPA over the agency’s failure to update the pollution standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries.

The EPA said it will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011. It plans to issue final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

The agency said the Clean Air Act requires it to set industry-specific standards for new sources that emit significant quantities of harmful pollutants.

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