Environmental Regulation, Top Story

EPA Regs Threaten New Coal Plants

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: April 2nd, 2012

NRECA CEO Glenn English says a greenhouse gas standard proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will effectively prevent the use of coal at new plants to produce electric power.

A new EPA standard coal effectively block construction of new coal-based power plants. (Photo By: TVA)

A new EPA standard coal effectively block construction of new coal-based power plants. (Photo By: TVA)

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    The rulemaking, issued March 27, requires carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil-fuel plants to be roughly equivalent to the emissions from a new combined-cycle natural gas plant.

    That’s half the emissions from a new coal plant, and English said the technology to accomplish that reduction does not currently exist.

    “Because commercially viable carbon capture and storage technology is still years away, the rules issued by EPA have the practical effect of outlawing coal as a fuel source for the next generation of power plants,” English said.

    The standard marks the first-ever limits on greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. A member resolution adopted by co-ops notes the Clean Air Act was never intended to cover carbon, and calls it the wrong vehicle to do so.

    It is not all-encompassing, since it applies only to new plants, and does not include units that are in operation or will begin construction in the next 12 months.

    However, English said the EPA regulations represent a dramatic departure from President Obama’s pledge in his January State of the Union address to pursue a diverse energy policy that taps all fuel sources.

    “NRECA and its member electric cooperatives are extremely disappointed that the standard issued by the EPA has jettisoned American coal from the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” he said.

    In a statement, EPA said it does not anticipate that the rule will add costs to the electric power sector because utilities can switch to natural gas or employ clean-coal technologies.

    English said that suggestion flies in the face of what’s practical to produce a reliable supply of power at affordable rates.

    “Politicians cannot have it both ways. They can’t claim to support the use of all fuels while at the same time establishing requirements technology can’t meet for America’s most abundant domestic fuel source,” he added.

    EPA will open a 60-day comment period after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

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