The Obama administration has decided to clamp down on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and is reportedly going to propose emissions standards that would ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
The environmental benefits are less clear.
“Despite the significant cost of these rules, there are no real benefits to the environment,” Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.
As part of President Obama’s plan to tackle global warming, the Environmental Protection Agency has been directed to impose limits on new and existing power plant emissions, which could cripple the coal industry if finalized.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the EPA’s new carbon dioxide emissions rule would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they utilize carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology — which the coal industry argues has not yet been proven on a commercial scale.
“These are carbon emissions rules not designed to produce local air quality benefits,” said Segal, which heads a coalition of energy companies and utilities that support coal-fired electricity. “Therefore, the fact that these rules are being advanced on a unilateral basis means that continued coal use in develop from Asia to Europe means there will be no real impact on global warming.”
Emissions limits will have little to no environmental impact, according to the EPA. The previous draft of the EPA’s rule said that “this proposed rule is not likely to produce changes in emissions of greenhouse gases or other pollutants although it does encourage the current trend towards cleaner generation [of energy].”
The agency also claimed that there would be no compliance costs for the rule as the EPA doesn’t project “new coal-fired [power plants] without CCS to be built in the absence of the proposal.” The agency said that no new coal plants will be built because of low natural gas prices and higher building costs compared to natural gas plants.
The Energy Information Administration reports that none of the 136 power plants slated to open or expand this year burns coal, and only two of the 127 power plants set to open or expand next year will burn coal.
“It’s a circular logic as far as we’re concerned,” Luke Popovich, top spokesman for the National Mining Association, a mining industry group, told TheDCNF. “Certainly natural gas prices have played a role in fuel switching, but nothing like what EPA would be proposing.”
Popovich added that the EPA’s projection that no coal plants will be built is misleading because EPA regulations are what have caused the high number of planned coal plant retirements.
“Some have suggested that low gas prices prevent new coal facility construction, not EPA regulations,” Segal said. “However, low gas prices are a market condition which can change over time or rapidly, and the market can react if our portfolio is diverse and includes coal. The proposed carbon standard would make that current market trend permanent by government fiat.”