The Environmental Protection Agency is asking a group of companies to cut their emissions by 40 percent by 2020.
The move comes as a result of an agreement by regulators last month to cap emissions at 40 million metric tons per year.
The EPA announced the initiative Tuesday during a meeting of the U.S. National Governors Association.
The groups said they hope the action will help them meet their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’ve got to get our heads out of the sand and start talking about solutions,” said Tom Carrigan, an executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a liberal environmental group.
Carrigan said the new proposal, which comes after a meeting between the EPA and the American Chemistry Council, will give the companies more time to meet the commitments they made in a new emissions trading system that took effect on January 1.
More than 60 companies have already committed to cutting emissions, and the EPA has been pushing the companies to increase their efforts to do so.
On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency was continuing to make progress toward its goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
This effort, he said, is about reducing the pollution we create when we burn fossil fuels.
The plan will also help companies develop cleaner power plants and more efficient factories, Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the EPA will work with industry, state and local governments and others to help create a new rule that will allow companies to set their own emissions limits.
“We’re going to be putting forward legislation that will set the standard and that’s the way to go,” Pruitt said Tuesday.
Under the EPA’s plan, companies will have until 2021 to make the required cuts.
In a letter to the companies Tuesday, Pruitt called on the companies’ stakeholders to reach an agreement on how to address their commitments, including the creation of a carbon pricing system that will be a major part of the proposal.
As part of a deal last year, the U:s Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation agreed to provide $1.8 billion in loans to help finance projects to develop technologies that reduce CO2 emissions.