Critics blast EPA proposal to curb GHG emission from new power plants.


By Jennifer Van Burkleo, Online Editor

Four months after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy released a revised proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, the agency published the proposed rule in the Federal Register Wednesday. The public now has 60 days to comment on the controversial rule.

“One must wonder what EPA was doing for the four months it took to post its New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) to the Federal Register, since the rule remains just as destructive and ill-conceived as it was in September,” Mike Duncan, president and CEO of ACCCE, said.

The NSPS for new coal and natural gas-fired power plants would limit carbon dioxide emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour (MWh) for gas plants and 1,100 pounds per MWh for coal plants.

Gas-fired projects will be able to comply with the new rule with relative ease, but coal plants will not be able to comply with the new standard without installing an expensive carbon capture and storage (CCS) system, a risk few utilities are willing to take due to the cost, the liability and question about CCS technology.

“It is disappointing that EPA has gone ahead with a proposal that would effectively ban new coal-fired power plants in the U.S.,” said Jeff Holmstead, counsel to the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC) and a former Assistant Administrator of EPA.   “It simply makes no sense to eliminate coal as an option in the U.S., when our economic competitors from around the world are building new, highly efficient coal-fired plants to provide affordable and reliable electricity for their citizens and their industries,”

The rule would nearly double the cost of building a new coal-fired plant, Holmstead said.

The American Public Power Association (APPA), a national service organization for the nation's community- and state-owned not-for-profit electric utilities, stated that the revised rule would hinder coal growth, limit resource options and boost energy costs.

The release from APPA also states that “EPA is inappropriately mandating that utilities wanting to invest in new coal-fired generation utilize carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions based on four CCS projects that are not currently operational and that have not been commercially demonstrated.”

The projects are funded by grants from the Department of Energy. The Energy Policy Act states that projects solely funded by DOE to show that a new technology has been adequately demonstrated for purposes of the Clean Air Act are not permitted. 

According to Holmstead, CCS technology has not been operated at any commercial scale coal-fired power plant in the world.  

John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, said the proposal could result in a less reliable grid, the elimination of jobs, and a negative impact on the economy. According to Pippy, coal-fired facilities contribute about $7 billion annually to the Pennsylvania’s economy.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to regulate carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants, published today, imposes limits that are not achievable using current technology, contrary to the requirement under the law,” Pippy said. "Ironically, imposing the proposed standards would have little if any impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally.  Moreover, they would put this country at a competitive disadvantage with other countries that are driving their economies by increasing their use of coal.”


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