EPA proposes carbon pollution limits for power plants

Less of this in the future? PHOTO VIA FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS.

Proposed rule would be a first step to limit health and environmental threats posed by greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The EPA this week took a historic and long-overdue first step to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants by proposing a new standard that would only apply to plants going online in the future.

According to the EPA, the proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants.

The fossil fuel industry, however, is unlikely to agree, and will probably challenge the rule and try and turn public opinion against by saying it will raise energy prices. Of course, the fossil fuel industry things that anything other than business-as-usual will raise energy prices.

The proposed rule isn’t getting much love from Republicans, either. A list of supportive statements posted on the EPA website does not include GOP lawmakers.

At the same time, the rule creates a path forward for new technologies to be deployed at future facilities that will allow companies to burn coal, while emitting less carbon pollution. The rulemaking proposed today only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months.

“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” said EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.”

Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. After the Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that carbon dioxide and other air pollution from cars, power plants, and other sources is subject to the Clean Air Act, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution is a threat to the health and welfare of Americans.

The proposed standard is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants.

EPA’s proposal is in line with these investments and will ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector continues. The proposed standards can be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

Even without today’s action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard.

Prior to developing this standard, EPA engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest information to aid in developing a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA’s comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

More information: http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/

The proposed rule garnered a favorable reaction from some conservation groups, as well as elected officials.

“This is a milestone in the fight to rein in climate change that seriously threatens people and wildlife,” said Joe Mendelson, initiator and co-counsel in the 2007 Supreme Court case and National Wildlife Federaion climate and energy policy director.

“The Obama Administration is the first White House to turn the tide on carbon pollution. Today’s action is much needed and grounded in sound science.  It will draw a groundswell of support in the months ahead,” he said.

“I commend the EPA for proposing these limits on carbon pollution,” Sen Mark Udall said in a prepared statement. “Moving our country toward a clean energy future will help stabilize energy prices, create new jobs, diversify the energy sources on which we depend, and make our country more secure. It is crucial that we begin to reduce our dependence on the dirty fuels of the last century and curb the effects of climate change.  The benefits of clean air are numerous and profound to Colorado’s public health and economy.

“While I would prefer to see a legislative solution that includes a comprehensive energy policy for America and focuses on clean, domestic sources of energy, the proposed standard can serve as an important backstop to Congressional inaction and put a price on carbon pollution,” Udall concluded.



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