EPA Issues Draft Rules For Coal-Burning Power Plants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has once again denied that it is waging a war against fossil fuels after the agency released draft rules that limit the amount of carbon that can be emitted by coal-burning power plants.
According to Bloomberg, the EPA has followed though on promises made earlier this year that power plants across the country could be required to capture and store a proportion of the carbon dioxide they produce, with the eventual goal being to adhere to carbon emission standards required by the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan. Under the draft proposals submitted by the federal agency, power generators would be encouraged to engage in engineering research that would reduce the levels of CO2 currently being dispersed into the atmosphere, a scenario that could pave the way for a new generation of energy producers.
"Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, in a press release. "By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children. These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy."
The standards will require large natural gas-fired turbines to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour while new plants would have to be constructed with a limit of 1,100 pounds per hour. In a media briefing, McCarthy stressed that these proposals were still in the early stages of discussion and that the EPA would be working with both power producers and state energy officials to make sure that targets were achievable within the suggested engineering resources framework.
"This is not an energy policy statement, this is not an ideological statement," she said. "This is the application of currently existing law in a way that it was supposed to be applied. We have very good history of 40 years indicating that technology innovates, that businesses adjust, that we can both reduce pollution and maintain the healthy economy that we are all looking for."
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the draft rules have been greeted with little enthusiasm by members of the fossil fuel industry and the coal-producing regions of the country. According to the news source, the EPA announcement is being seen less as a move to curb carbon emissions and more as a veiled attack on the sector itself, with various lawmakers claiming that the government is forcing states to engage in costly and potentially tricky engineering research and development.
"Never before has the federal government forced an industry to do something that is technologically impossible," said Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, in an interview with Bloomberg. "Forcing coal to meet the same emissions standards as gas when experts know that the required technology is not operational on a commercial scale makes absolutely no sense and will have devastating impacts to the coal industry and our economy."
However, McCarthy has denied that this is the case, citing the fact that the agency is looking to adhere to the requirements of the 1970 Clean Air Act and saying that these draft proposals are part of a long-plan to invest in all aspects of the energy sector. It is widely accepted that power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, and there are already several states who have introduced stand-alone legislation to deal with carbon pollution.
"Some states already have efficiency programs, which reduce emissions because they reduce overall generation, as well as renewable portfolio standards, which require generation from wind, sun and other zero-carbon sources," said McCarthy, according to the New York Times. "The states are thinking about these things. This is not going to be new to them."
SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency