By Dorothy Davis
The Canadian government has announced a new array of carbon emissions rules for coal-fired generation. The regulations, set to take effect July 1, 2015, will limit coal-fired power plants to no more than 420 metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide per gigawatt-hour.
The new rules, outlined by Environment Minister Peter Kent, detailed a schedule to slowly phase in a set of restrictions based on when the plants went into operation. Kent highlighted the initiative is expected to reduce cumulative emissions from the power generation sector by some 214 million mt over a two decade period.
However, the new regulations include broad transitional exemptions for existing coal-fired power plants that have been criticized as a major weakening of the initial proposal. Most notably, the redefinition of the useful life of a coal-fired power plant as 50 years after a facility first commences commercial operation.
"Major changes to the draft rules will allow the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in Canada to run for up to half of a century from commissioning without any limits to their climate pollution," environmental research group the Pembina Institute said in a statement. "When these standards do apply, they will be weaker than originally proposed."
Kent defended the changes saying the government had considered thousands of responses during the year-long review that convinced him the adjustments were necessary, reported The StarPhoenix.
"I think the suggestion that the regulations have been softened or weakened is a misperception," Kent was quoted. "(The regulations) both significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet 2020 targets and at the same time ... make sure we find the balance between responsible regulations and maintaining our still recovering economy."