On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a plan that seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by almost 30 percent by 2030. If passed, the initiative would be one of the strongest actions ever taken by the United States to combat climate change.

The regulation takes aim at the nation's 600-plus coal-fired power plants, which is the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. If implemented, experts say that it could shut down hundreds of the plants and spark major systemic changes in the American electricity industry, including the way power is generated and used in the decades ahead.

"Today, climate change -- fueled by carbon pollution -- supercharges risks not just to our health but to our communities, our economy and our way of life," said Gina McCarthy, the EPA. administrator in a speech Monday morning, The New York Times reported.

Under the plan, the Obama administration would reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Not only is the plan a centerpiece in President Obama's climate initiative, but it would also give the U.S. more leverage to prod other countries to participate in a new international treaty next year.

"This is not just about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps," McCarthy said, according to The Associated Press. "This is about protecting our health and our homes. This is about protecting local economies and jobs."

The 645-page proposal is expected to be finalized by President Obama next year, though it wouldn't go into effect until at least another two years in order to give states time to make provision for the sweeping initiative.

The proposal requires state officials to design a plan to meet customized targets set by the EPA, and submit those plans for approval. Although some states will be allowed to emit more pollutants and others less, overall the cuts would lead to a nationwide reduction of 30 percent.

"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," McCarthy said.

Critics of the controversial proposal called the plan a job killer.

"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," Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-WV, said, according to USA Today.