The EPA may be trying to avoid a political disaster before the rollout of major regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. Sources say the agency has dropped a key requirement that coal plants install carbon capture technology.
Sources familiar with the matter told InsideEPA reporter Dawn Reeves the EPA plans on ditching a de facto mandate that new coal-fired power plants use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology — which the coal industry has said is not commercially available.
— William Yeatman (@WillieYeatman) May 20, 2015
Reeves confirmed the tip to The Daily Caller News Foundation, but added that the CCS mandate could still be revived by the Obama administration. The EPA, however, did not comment on whether or not regulations for new coal plants would install CCS as the rule was still being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
— Dawn Reeves (@DawnReevesDC) May 20, 2015
The EPA is expected to finalize two major regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions sometime this summer. The most contentious of which is the agency’s rule to cut CO2 emissions from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030.
This regulation has already been subject to legal challenges by more than a dozen states along with one coal company. But before the agency can regulate existing plants, it has to create CO2 emissions standards for new coal plants.
The agency’s draft rule, however, set emissions limits for new coal plants so low that operators would be forced to use CCS technology to keep emissions below the EPA’s established threshold. The only problem with CCS is that it’s not yet commercially available.
Republicans and power companies have pointed out that no commercial-sized power plant in the U.S. currently uses CCS, and all CCS projects in the country (and likely around the world) are being financed with government funds. Lawmakers point out that mandating CCS would violate a 2005 federal law prohibiting the EPA from requiring plants to use technology being subsidized by the government.
The EPA maintains that CCS is commercially available, pointing to four projects moving forward in the U.S. and Canada — yet all of these projects got government funding and suffered from huge delays and cost overruns.
One project the EPA used to tout was the Kemper project in Mississippi, but that project has suffered from delays and skyrocketing costs. TheDCNF reported last year the EPA was scrambling to take the focus away from the still uncompleted Kemper plant.
Sources told TheDCNF that problems with Kemper forced EPA toon the Boundary Dam CCS project in Canada, which came online last year.
Boundary Dam power plant in Estevan, Saskatchewan comes online after a four-year $1.21 billion retrofit. Plant operator SaskPower hopes the project can prove CCS is a workable technology. The project got $240 million from the Canadian government.
But if Reeve’s source proves right, the EPA may have even abandoned support for the Canadian project as well. Could this be a move to salvage the EPA’s climate agenda?
It’s hard to say since the EPA is silent on the issue. Reporters will just have to wait until the rule is released to see if CCS is still basically mandated by the agency.
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