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EPA still silent on the legality of coal plant ban

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to explain how it can legally require new coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

House Republicans wrote to the agency in November after the EPA announced its proposed rule on power plant emissions. Lawmakers expressed concerns that the EPA was breaking federal law by requiring coal plants to use CCS technology. The agency has still not responded, but did publish its rule in the Federal Register Wednesday.

“We still have yet to receive a response to our letter questioning the legality, but EPA appears to be moving full speed ahead with this proposed rule despite the concerns we raised that it is in clear violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005,” said Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield, an opponent of the EPA’s new power plant rule.

The coal industry and Republican lawmakers have said that the CCS requirement is in violation of federal law because CCS is not commercially proven. Environmentalists and the EPA contend that CCS has been commercially proven.

The agency says CCS has been “adequately demonstrated”, citing three government-backed projects being built in the U.S. and one small-scale Canadian government-funded project.

Republicans argue that this is in violation of the Environmental Policy Act of 2005 which prohibits the EPA from labeling technology as “adequately demonstrated” if it’s receiving government funding.

“We will continue our vigorous oversight of this rulemaking, which has been fraught with irregularities, and we continue to believe that EPA is acting far beyond the scope of its legal authority at the detriment of the American public,” the lawmakers continued.

President Obama promised to crack down on carbon emissions from coal plants as part of his plan to make the U.S. a leader on addressing global warming. In response, the EPA and other federal agencies began crafting new regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions — which some scientists and environmentalists say cause global warming.

“Fossil fuel burning power plants are the single largest source of dangerous carbon pollution, and right now there are no national limits to the amount of that pollution that power plants can spew into our air,” said Megan Ceronsky, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund.

“This is a big step forward toward getting some common-sense limits on the carbon pollution that causes climate change,” said Ceronsky. “These standards will move us toward cleaner power generation, which will protect public health and encourage the development of new technologies that will boost the U.S. economy.”

Coal states and companies have pushed back against the EPA’s rules, saying they would cripple the coal industry and working families.

“One must wonder what EPA was doing for the four months it took to post its NSPS to the Federal Register, since the rule remains just as destructive and ill-conceived as it was in September,” said Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Coal companies have already invested billions of dollars in clean coal technologies, according to ACCCE, to the tune of $110 billion which have reduced emissions by nearly 90 percent. In the next decade, the coal industry projects it will invest another $100 billion in cleaner technology.

“Contrary to claims made by EPA and other Administration officials, NSPS is just another step in President Obama’s dangerous climate change campaign that’s putting America’s energy future in jeopardy,” Duncan added.

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