Environmental Protection Agency to Curb Coal Plant Emissions

September 25, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently unveiled its proposal to limit greenhouse gases from new coal-fired power plants, setting up a battle with companies that say tougher standards require the use of costly and largely unproven technology, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • The proposal requires new coal plants to limit their emissions to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, about 700 fewer pounds than most modern-day coal units.
  • The new rule is a key part of President Barack Obama's climate change plan, announced in June.
  • The president has said he wants to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 when compared with 2005.
  • Technology known as carbon capture and storage, which is required to meet the new EPA standard, isn't currently used at any commercial-scale power plant.

The EPA rule, which will undergo public comment before being made final, is likely to be challenged in court. The legal fight will also hinge largely on the agency's ability to show that carbon-capture and carbon-storage technology is a viable option for the power industry. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to show that its standards are "achievable" and that required technology has been "adequately demonstrated."

Even without tighter standards, coal plants have fallen out of favor as power companies switch to cheap and cleaner-burning natural gas. The industry's concern is that the EPA's proposal will effectively ban the construction of new coal plants even if natural gas prices were to double or triple.

Source: Tennille Tracy, "EPA Unveils Plan to Curb Emissions From New Coal Plants," Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2013.

 

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