January 30, 2014

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The Environmental Protection Agency has released for public comment a proposed set of standards designed to reduce carbon emissions at new coal and natural gas-fired power plants.  The origin of these standards can be traced back to 2009, when EPA first determined, pursuant to its authority under the Clean Air Act, that six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, constituted a threat to public health and welfare.  Since that time EPA has been moving to regulate emissions of these gases.

The proposed new source performance standards (NSPS) will require new coal-fired facilities to employ carbon capture and storage technology, limiting emissions from these plants to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour of electricity produced.  In contrast, most coal-fired plants today release around 1,700 pounds of carbon dioxide for each megawatt hour of electricity.  The proposed NSPS will also limit large natural gas-fired facilities to 1,000  pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour and smaller facilities to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour.  You can review the new regulations at this link.

Coal industry supporters and other critics of the regulations have argued that if the new standards are adopted, new coal-fired facilities will effectively be banned in the United States because the technology that will be required is not economically feasible.  For its part, EPA contends the practical impact of the rule may be limited, as current and future economic conditions suggest “few, if any” coal-fired plants will be built, and “electricity generators are expected to choose new generation technologies (primarily natural gas combined cycle) that would meet the proposed standards.”

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed new standards through March 10, 2014, and a public hearing has been scheduled for February 6, 2014.  You can learn more about making comments and participating in the hearing here.