There’s been much to worry about with the Obama administration’s energy policies in recent weeks–his promise to ‘drill everywhere,’ his approval of the southern leg of the Keystone Pipeline, his embrace of fracking for gas. But last week one big piece of good news emerged from the administration. It was just complicated enough that it didn’t make good news–but over time it should make for cleaner skies.

The EPA–under the strong leadership of Lisa Jackson–put forward a new rule governing how much pollution newly built power plants can emit. In essence, the requirements are strict enough that it will be very hard to build new coal-fired power plants. In some senses, this ratifies the great work already done by activists at places like the Sierra Club, who have stifled new coal-plant development in recent years. But this makes it unlikely that new coal plants will somehow rise from the grave in the future.

It still leaves a lot of questions, of course. One, what about existing coal-fired power plants, which belch huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere? Two, will we simply replace coal with natural gas–which, when fracked from the ground, seems to be almost as bad for the climate? And three–will we just start shipping the coal we don’t use to Asia and elsewhere, as many have now proposed doing?

We’ll keep fighting to close down coal plants, to stop fracking, and to block the construction of new ports and rail lines that would make it easier to ship coal abroad. But for the moment, it’s important to thank Lisa Jackson and her crew at EPA for following the science where it leads.

If you’d like to submit a comment to the federal government favoring the new regulations, here’s the address to use.