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New EPA rule on working coal plants coming in 2014

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the EPA will be taking steps to limit carbon emissions from existing coal plants soon. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Lost in the outrage over an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to limit carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants -- essentially banning them -- was the news that the EPA would be taking a similar tactic with existing coal plants in June 2014.

Speaking with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy assured a worried Maddow that the EPA will be taking steps to limit carbon emissions from existing coal plants soon.

“We’re not waiting, we have to have conversations with the states,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said that the EPA was “pretty excited” about getting “significant reductions” in carbon emissions from existing plants, but emphasized that states officials should develop their own plans, with EPA only providing “set guidance.”

The EPA has done more than simply guide states, however, because it reviews and approves or rejects their plans, sometimes capriciously.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the EPA approved in 2010 the installation of pollution-control equipment at an existing coal plant. Three years later, the EPA decided that equipment was “insufficient.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in August that the EPA's New Source Performance Standards for new coal plants would be “unobtainable” for states like West Virginia.

McCarthy admitted that the EPA will be “aggressively” setting guidance for the states in regards to carbon emissions.

She also said “dealing with climate change is not going to be resolved by these rules.”

The EPA plans to engage with “state, tribal and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits and others” to establish standards for existing coal plants by June 2014, McCarthy said.