Wheeler: ‘We will encourage cleaner coal worldwide’

Source: Niina Heikkinen, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, December 7, 2018

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says EPA’s move to scale back an Obama-era rule for power plants could help encourage global adoption of clean coal technology.

Wheeler today announced the Trump administration’s plans to replace EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for carbon emissions from new and modified power plants.

The draft rule, unlike the Obama administration’s 2015 standard it would replace, does not consider carbon capture and storage technology as the best way for new coal plants to cut their emissions. New power plants are instead expected to control emissions through efficiency improvements. Wheeler said the Trump version of the rule doesn’t pick winners and losers.

The proposal also raises the amount of carbon emissions large power plants are allowed to emit, from 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour to 1,900 pounds.

The rule change “will encourage new investments in cleaner coal technology. By encouraging cleaner coal in the U.S., we will encourage cleaner coal worldwide,” Wheeler said.

“I’d love to see coal plants built in China and India meet our standard that we are proposing today, because they don’t meet it today,” he said.

The administrator described carbon capture technology as not yet “adequately demonstrated” and called the prior administration’s rule an “unfair burden on American providers.” With this rule, the agency was following its statutory requirements, he said.

Wheeler pushed back on questions about whether the agency was disregarding the findings of the most recent National Climate Assessment that the United States needs to take swift action to cut carbon emissions. He noted that recent media reports had focused on the “worst-case scenario” outlined in the assessment.

“We are not ignoring the government report. I was just briefed on it this morning, in terms of what the findings are,” he said.

Wheeler signed the proposal flanked by Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce; Michelle Bloodworth, CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity; and Kirk Johnson, senior vice president of government relations at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Alford praised the rule for helping to prevent rises in energy prices that can disproportionately harm black and Hispanic Americans.

Bloodworth noted that coal is expected to remain an important source of electricity in the United States. She described the new proposed rule as “sensible.”

“We and others believe retirements of coal generation threatens the reliability of the grid,” Bloodworth said.

Johnson also praised EPA’s decision to change the 2015 rule.

“I’m delighted to see this proposal unveiled. We need rules to reflect the state of technology as it is today. The previous regulation did not reflect that,” he said.