The Obama administration is planning on blocking the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they use expensive and untested carbon capture and storage technology, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Obama administration has been waging a War on Coal and Kentucky jobs ever since the president was elected. If these reports are accurate, his latest proposal is not only an open war on coal jobs, but on all the residents, jobs, and businesses across the commonwealth that rely on this vital industry,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The EPA’s revised rule creates separate standards for coal and natural gas power plants, but the emissions limits still greatly disadvantage burning coal. The Wall Street Journal reports that coal plants may only emit 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour while natural gas plants can emit 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour for large gas-fired plants.
According to the Journal’s sources, the limits proposed by the Obama administration would ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants — coal plants generally emit twice as much carbon dioxide as the proposed limits.
“Even the newest, most advanced coal-fired power plants in the world would fall far short of that revised standard,” the Journal reports, adding that the only way coal plants can comply with the new standards would be to use carbon capture and storage technology.
“If reports are true, the EPA is set to issue a rule that will completely halt the development of new coal-fueled plants by requiring they meet unachievable carbon standards,” said American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity President Mike Duncan. “The American people should not be fooled. If the EPA overreaches, its actions could drastically reduce our nation’s fuel options, risk tens-of-thousands of jobs and destroy, not encourage, the development of new carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.”
These new rules will only accelerate the closing of coal plants around the country as well as the number of plants switching converting to burn natural gas. This comes with costs, as utilities worry that forcing a switch from coal to natural gas would cause an energy supply crunch.
“For the first time ever, EPA is becoming a regulator of energy. The rule they’re putting out there is going to force choices as to which energy you use, and that’s a very disturbing concept for manufacturers, for businesses, for anybody that has to comply with these laws,” said Ross Eisenberg, the vice president for energy policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.
For months, environmentalists have been pushing the Obama administration to crack down on coal plants across the country, which they argue are the nation’s largest carbon emitters. Environmental groups have also praised Obama’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020.
However, the new rule is not final yet and will likely face legal challenges from the coal industry and its allies. Regulations under the Clean Air Act have to be achievable based on proven technology, a requirement CCS arguably cannot meet.
The EPA argues that CCS is proven technology based on one state-of-the-art coal-fired plant in Mississippi that utilizes the technology to capture two-thirds of the carbon it emits — making it almost as clean as a natural gas plant.
Power companies argue that CCS has not been successfully proven, as it has never been done at a large commercial scale.
“We firmly believe CCS is not a demonstrated technology that meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” said Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for the utility American Electric Power, which was forced to shut down three of its coal plants earlier this year.
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