EPA sends carbon rule for new power plants to White House 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015

U.S. EPA sent today its final rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants to the White House for review.

EPA is working toward finalizing the rule in midsummer, along with its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. EPA also plans to submit a federal proposal for meeting the Clean Power Plan at the same time.

The new power plant rule, proposed under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Performance Standards program, would require developers of coal-fired power plants to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.

“The final standards are an important part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and will put in place the first-ever national carbon pollution standards for new power plants,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in a statement.

EPA first released the proposed rule for new power plants in September 2013. The proposal would require future coal-fired plants to limit emissions of carbon dioxide to 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour, while large combined-cycle natural gas facilities would have to meet a standard of 1,000 pounds per MWh. Small gas-fired units and single-cycle power plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds per MWh.

The proposal would require the most efficient coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent, making it necessary for new plants to build systems to capture and store carbon dioxide underground.

The proposal replaced an earlier 2012 version by the agency. EPA had originally planned to finalize the rule one year after its publication in the Federal Register, but the deadline slipped as the agency received more than 2 million public comments.

EPA announced in January that it would finalize the new and existing power plant rules, as well as propose the federal plan, together in midsummer. EPA acting air chief Janet McCabe has said that issuing the rules at once would allow the agency to better address “crosscutting topics,” such as how natural gas units would be treated (Greenwire, Jan. 7).

The coal industry has expressed strong opposition to the new power plant rule, calling it unrealistic and arguing that the requirement for carbon capture and storage would effectively end coal-fired power generation in the country. Coal industry advocates plan to challenge the rule, issued under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act, as being legally unsound for EPA’s determination that CCS is commercially ready.

EPA has argued that the rule would not greatly affect the construction of new coal-fired power plants, since few plants would be built anyway because market conditions favor natural gas.

Purchia said the package of rules slated for midsummer release would “provide important public health benefits and address climate change, while ensuring reliable, affordable and clean power for American businesses and families.”