The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first-ever standards to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants — a move welcomed by environmentalists but criticized by some utilities as well as Republicans, who are expected to use it as election campaign fodder.

“Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies — and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow,” Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.

While the proposed rules do not dictate which fuels a plant can burn, they would require any new coal plants essentially to halve carbon dioxide emissions to match those of plants fired by natural gas.

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