EPA Girds For Fallout, Issues Regs for New Power Plants

Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its second try at carbon regulations for new power plants, after going back to the drawing board last year.

These would be the first rules that address carbon dioxide as a pollutant – ordered by the Supreme Court years ago under the Clean Air Act, but since then the subject of endless lawsuits andlegislation from the fossil fuel lobby – all of which EPA won. The fight now begins again.

EPA’s proposed rules only limit carbon pollution from new power plants – rules for existing power plants, which are way more important, come out by next June.

Under the rules, new coal plants can’t emit more than 1100 pounds of carbon per megawatt-hour. They have the option of meeting somewhat tighter limits if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving them more operational flexibility.

New large natural gas-fired plants are limited to emitting 1,000 pounds of carbon per megawatt-hour and small plants have a 1100 pound limit.

All these standards do is ensure that new power plants are built with current best technology, the same requirement for all industries except the power sector – which produces 40% of US carbon emissions, the nation’s biggest source. Plants can even phase in technologies, says EPA.

While the EPA places limits on emissions of arsenic, mercury and lead, there are currently no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit.

Believe it or not, US coal plants produce more emissions than most countries do. Once built, they’re in service for about 50 years, so building just one inefficient, emissions-intensive plant locks us into millions of tons of future climate pollution.

Just five new coal plants like the one recently built in Texas would discharge enough emissions over its lifetime to entirely offset the emission savings from Clean Cars Standards of 54 miles per gallon. 

You can find the biggest polluters on EPA’s website.

EPA GHG Map

The five most polluting power plants are:

  • Georgia Power: Plant Scherer (Georgia)
  • Alabama Power Co.: James H. Miller Jr. Plant (Alabama)
  • Luminant: Martin Lake (Texas)
  • Ameren: Labadie (Missouri)
  • NRG Energy: WA Parish (Texas)

The standards would essentially cut coal plant emissions in half from uncontrolled levels. They are similar to clean air standards adopted by California, Oregon, New York, Montana, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington State.

The rules give power companies the certainty they need to invest in cleaner power plants. Many utilities have been holding off investing because of this uncertainty.

Read our article, Who Are the Top Polluters of Air, Water & Climate in the US?

and US Air Pollution Also a Major Problem.

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