- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed emissions rules Thursday that would effectively require coal-fired power plants to use carbon capture technology that critics have decried as uneconomical and ineffective.
- Existing coal-fired power plants would have until 2040 to either implement the technology or shut down, according to the EPA.
- “It makes no sense for EPA to propose a rule to shut down more coal plants one week after all four commissioners from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) testified before the Senate Energy Committee that coal plants are needed to maintain grid reliability,” Michelle Bloodworth, president of America’s Power, a coal trade organization, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a strict set of proposed power plant emissions rules Thursday that would effectively require coal-fired power plants to use carbon capture technology that critics have decried as uneconomical and ineffective.
The EPA’s proposal — which must now undergo a period of public review — would effectively require existing coal-fired power plants to either implement carbon capture and storage (CCS), or go offline by 2040. Large “base load” natural gas facilities would be required to either capture 90% of emissions using CCS by 2035 or convert to burning 96% hydrogen by volume by 2038, while smaller, less frequently active natural-gas fired plants could comply by burning more efficient forms of natural gas. (RELATED: Environmentalists Are Pushing Biden Officials To Weaponize Marketing Rules Against Natural Gas: REPORT)
In a typical CCS process, emissions are captured before being released into the environment, then compressed and either stored deep underground or used in some manufacturing processes, according to the International Energy Agency. Any such rules that would require widespread deployment of carbon capture technology would likely result in higher energy costs and the shutdown of fossil fuel power plants, industry experts told the DCNF ahead of the proposal.
“By proposing new standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants, EPA is delivering on its mission to reduce harmful pollution that threatens people’s health and wellbeing,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “EPA’s proposal relies on proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future.”
The EPA estimates that the rule will generate $85 billion in climate and public health benefits by 2042, while costing companies roughly $14 billion to comply. In a meeting with reporters ahead of the proposal’s announcement, Regan said that the EPA expected to see “some” coal plant retirements, but that the EPA’s program stressed “flexibility” for states and companies to make the decisions that were best for them.
The agency also estimates that the process will result in a modest increase in electricity prices by 2030 before levelling off by 2040. The EPA forecasts that by 2040, coal production for power production will decline by 15%, while natural gas will decline by 2%.
Coal-fired facilities could be effectively exempted from the stricter emissions standards if they opt to shut down by 2032, while those that shut down by 2040 could comply by generating 40% of their input heat from the burning of natural gas, according to the EPA. The EPA opted not to update standards for new coal units, based on CCS, because the agency anticipates “no further new units.”
Michelle Bloodworth, president of America’s Power, a coal trade organization, alleged that the rule was “designed specifically to cause the premature closure of coal power plants,” which she characterized as “one of our most dependable and affordable sources of electricity,” in a statement shared with the DCNF.
“It makes no sense for EPA to propose a rule to shut down more coal plants one week after all four commissioners from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) testified before the Senate Energy Committee that coal plants are needed to maintain grid reliability,” said Bloodworth. “In addition to FERC, grid operators and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation have issued warnings for more than two years about the potential for electricity shortages due to the retirement of coal plants and other dispatchable electricity sources. We strongly urge EPA to modify the proposal to avoid premature coal retirements, rather than speed up retirements and jeopardize grid reliability.”
Steve Milloy, a former Trump EPA transition advisor, criticized the rule for overstepping the EPA’s bounds under the Clean Air Act (CAA), and compared it to the EPA’s proposed rules limiting tailpipe emissions. Both the EPA’s tailpipe rules and power plant rules are expected to be finalized in 2024 at the earliest, according to The New York Times.
“Like his proposal to essentially ban gas-powered cars by setting stringent emissions standards, Biden’s proposal to set stringent emissions standards so as to ban fossil fuel plants without carbon capture is illegal and has no chance of withstanding legal scrutiny in light of last year’s SCOTUS decision in West Virginia v. EPA,” Milloy said in a statement shared with the DCNF. “But it may take years for SCOTUS to rule on this controversy and, in the meantime, much damage will be done to the fossil fuel plants that our electricity grid depends on. Congressional Republicans need to get activated now and use the debt ceiling or appropriations bills to rein in the out-of-control Biden EPA.”
In June 2022, the Supreme Court significantly limited the EPA’s ability to regulate power plant emissions, noting that Congress never authorized the EPA to take a “generation shifting approach” in developing Obama-era proposed rules under the CAA. Democratic and Republican legal experts disagree about whether new language introduced in the CAA by the president’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), authorizes the EPA to engage in similar regulations.
Prior to the rule’s publication, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, who led the lawsuit challenging the Obama-era proposal, indicated that he would challenge similar rules from the Biden administration, in a statement to E&E News.
“We are eager to review the EPA’s new proposed rule on power plants, and we’ll be ready once again to lead the charge in the fight against federal overreach, just as how we successfully have done in West Virginia v. EPA,” Morrisey told E&E News, ahead of the proposal.
Biden has pledged to cut carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to Axios. The president is also targeting 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.
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