EPA Proposes Carbon Regulations for New Power Plants

by | Mar 28, 2012

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The EPA has released its first proposed Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants.

Under the Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants, new fossil-fuel-fired power plants must emit no more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. The proposed rule does not apply to existing units already operating, or units that will start construction over the next 12 months.

Writing for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Brad Plummer points out that most new natural-gas plants already fall under the proposed carbon threshold and as such won’t be affected. Coal plants, on the other hand, produce around 1,800 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour.

There are currently 24 new coal plants planned for construction in the next 12 months, and these will all duck the regulation. But very few coal plants are planned for construction after this time period, Plummer says. The Energy Information Administration is projecting no coal plants to come online from 2017-2035, according to Plummer.

Steve Miller, CEO and president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coalition of power companies, has said the rule would “make it impossible to build any new coal-fueled power plants.”

But others have questioned whether the rule will make any noticeable difference.

It would be foolish to think that the rule caused this halt in coal plant building, according to David Roberts of Grist. The proposed rule is bad news for coal plants, but the main reason new plants are not getting built is because coal is getting priced out by cheap natural gas, Roberts says. He calls coal power “outmoded and uneconomic in the U.S.”

Another rule affecting existing power plants is set to be released later in the year. Roberts expects the next rule to come after the 2012 election and to include tougher regulations.

The agency had delayed the release of the long-anticipated Clean Air Act rules in June and September amid an onslaught of criticism from Republicans in Congress. In November, the EPA said it would propose the rules in early 2012.

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