Amid concerns from the US coal industry that the cost of implementing carbon capture technology will render new coal-fired generation plants uneconomic, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed yesterday Clean Air Act standards to cut carbon pollution from new power plants in order to combat climate change and improve public health.
The proposal is intended to achieve the first milestone outlined in President Obama’s June 25 Memorandum to EPA on “Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards,” a major part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.
The proposal sets separate standards for new gas-fired and coal-fired power plants
- New large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour
- New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility
The limits, issued as part of the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act, “will effectively require partial carbon capture and sequestration,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said yesterday
Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. In addition, more than 25 states have set energy efficiency targets, and more than 35 have set renewable energy targets. While the United States has limits in place for arsenic, mercury and lead pollution that power plants can emit, currently, there are no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit.
Separately, EPA has initiated outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders that will help inform the development of emission guidelines for existing power plants. EPA intends to work closely with the states to ensure strategies for reducing carbon pollution from existing sources are flexible, account for regional diversity, and embrace common sense solutions, allowing the United States to continue utilizing every fuel source available. In accordance with the June 25 Presidential Memorandum, EPA will issue proposed standards for existing power plants by June 1, 2014.