On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under direction of the Obama administration released a proposal that will set the first-ever national carbon pollution standards limits for America’s existing power plants. The proposal follows through on the steps laid out in the administration’s Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.
According to the EPA, the proposed guidelines will fight climate change while protecting public health and supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power. Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source--power plants," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
EPA said the Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. State plans are due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed.
In September 2013, EPA released its proposed Clean Air Act standards for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Under those proposed guidelines, new large natural gas-fired power turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour (MWh). New coal-fired power units would be required to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh, or exercise an option to average emissions at a slightly tighter limit over multiple years.
The EPA and President Obama’s administration have faced heavy industry backlash over the proposed rules for new and existing power plants, with several in the power sector saying the standards are essentially an effective ban on coal-fired power.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) blasted the EPA following an initial review of today’s proposed rule, saying the guidelines will spur devastating economic impacts including job losses and energy costs.
“If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes is creating America’s next energy crisis,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of ACCCE. “As we predicted, the administration chose political expediency over practical reality as it unveiled energy standards devoid of commonsense and flexibility. These guidelines represent a complete disregard for our country’s most vital fuel sources, like American coal, which provides nearly 40 percent of America’s power, reliably and affordably.”
EPA has remained firm in supporting the viability of the proposed guidelines and CCS technologies, acknowledging a continuing need for a role for coal generation in the U.S. energy mix.
Comment on the current proposal for existing plants will be accepted for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register with four public hearings scheduled for the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh. Based on this input, EPA will finalize standards next June.
Draft of the proposed rule, an EPA fact sheet, and details on how to comment are available here:
· Draft Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Modified and Reconstructed Power Plants - (PDF)(181 pgs, 863 K)
· EPA Fact Sheet: Overview of the Clean Power Plan (PDF)(1 pg, 294 K)