Tuesday, March 27, 2012

EPA Proposes First-Ever CO2 Standards For New Power Plants

Mar 27: U.S. EPA has proposed the first-ever national regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from "new" power plants. EPA issued a release saying that following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, it was proposing the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. The New Source Performance (NSP) standard, would limit emissions from new power plants to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. EPA said the proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants. At the same time, the rule creates a path forward for new technologies to be deployed at future facilities that will allow companies to burn coal, while emitting less carbon pollution. EPA emphasized that the proposed rulemaking "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "Today we're taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy. Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies -- and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."

    Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. As a direct result of the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling, EPA in 2009 determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans' health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.

    EPA indicated that the proposed standard is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. EPA said its proposal is in line with these investments and will ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector continues. The proposed standards can be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions. EPA said that, "Even without today's action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard."
    The proposed requirements, which are strictly limited to new sources, would require new fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating units (EGUs) greater than 25 megawatt electric (MWe) to meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (lb CO2/MWh), based on the performance of widely used natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) technology. Because of the economics of the energy sector, EPA and others project that NGCC will be the predominant choice for new fossil fuel-fired generation even absent this rule. In its base case analysis, the EPA does not project any new coal-fired EGUs without CCS to be built in the absence of this proposal through 2030.
    EPA indicated that new coal-fired or pet coke-fired units could meet the standard either by employing carbon capture and storage (CCS)1 of approximately 50% of the CO2 in the exhaust gas at startup, or through later application of more effective CCS to meet the standard on average over a 30-year period. The 30-year averaging option could also provide flexibility for owners and operators of coal or pet coke units implementing CCS at the outset of the unit's operation that were designed and operated to emit at less than 1,000 lb CO2/MWh to address startup concerns or short term interruptions in their ability to sequester captured carbon dioxide.

    EPA said that prior to developing this standard, it engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest information to aid in developing a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The Agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA's comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
    National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn issued a statement saying, "EPA's proposal for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from about half the nation's electric power supply is a poorly disguised cap-and-tax scheme that represents energy and economic policy at its worst. Higher utility bills and fewer jobs are the only certain outcomes from this reckless attempt to override Congress's repeated refusal to enact punitive caps on carbon dioxide emissions. Requiring coal-based power plants to meet an emissions standard based on natural gas technology is a policy overtly calculated to destroy a significant portion of America's electricity supply. This is a movie we have seen before, and the script remains unchanged. Volatile natural gas prices will, once again, expose millions of households to higher utility bills, threaten hundreds of thousands of workers with unemployment and weaken both the competitiveness of basic industries and the reliability of the nation's electricity grid.
    "This proposal is the latest convoy in EPA's regulatory train wreck that is rolling across America, crushing jobs and arresting our economic recovery at every stop. It is not an "all of the above" energy strategy; it does not create jobs; and it does not make it easier for Americans to pay their mortgages. Instead, the proposed New Source Performance Standards would deliberately push America to abandon coal, its most abundant and reliable energy source in favor of costlier fuels -- even though Congress has repeatedly rejected this policy. NMA urges Congress to assert its authority over an agency that disregards the public need for affordable electricity and ignores the overwhelming costs of its regulations."
    Eileen Claussen, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) said, "We welcome EPA's proposal today to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and urge the Administration to quickly move forward with rules for existing plants, which account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Power companies face huge investment decisions as they meet new pollution standards and retire or upgrade outdated plants. They need to know the full picture - including future greenhouse gas requirements - in order to keep our electricity supply as reliable and affordable as possible.

    "While highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants would meet the standard proposed today, new coal-fired power plants not already in the pipeline could likely meet the standard only by capturing and permanently sequestering their greenhouse gas emissions. This underscores the urgency of stronger public and private investment in carbon capture and storage technologies. The United States, China and India -- the world's three largest greenhouse gas emitters -- all have substantial coal reserves. If we can't figure out how to get the energy value out of coal with a minimal carbon footprint, we will not solve the climate problem. With prospects for substantial public investment in CCS unclear, C2ES is now working with policymakers and stakeholders on ways to expand enhanced oil recovery using captured carbon dioxide -- an approach that can boost domestic oil production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help lay the groundwork for full-scale carbon capture and storage."

    Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued a statement in response to EPA's proposal saying, "The Sierra Club applauds President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's announcement today to establish new safeguards under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from dangerous carbon pollution. Their action today follows the actions of thousands of families and activists over the last several years to prevent 166 dirty coal plants from polluting their communities, air and water.
    "These first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants mean that business as usual for the nation's biggest sources of carbon pollution, dirty coal-burning utilities, is over.  Cleaning up dangerous carbon pollution from new power plants and modernizing the way we power our nation will help secure Americans' health and future, and prevent against life-threatening air pollutants like dirty soot, toxic mercury and smog. Most of all, these carbon pollution protections mark the end of an era for antiquated, dirty coal plants and continue the momentum behind clean energy to ensure healthier kids, families and workers, as well as much-needed job creation and a more secure climate future."
    Kevin Kennedy, U.S. Climate Director, World Resources Institute (WRI) said, "For the first time, EPA has proposed standards to reduce harmful carbon pollution from power plants. The power sector produces one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and it's critical to reduce these emissions if we're going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. These standards will ensure that any new power plants will be designed to protect people's health and the planet. A quarter of the nation's fossil fuel-based generation capacity is more than 40 years old, and many plants are approaching retirement. Any plants built today would likely be standing in 2050 and beyond, making strong rules for new plants an important part of the picture.

    "We commend EPA for this step to advance the Administration's commitment to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Today's announcement follows the Administration's introduction of historic standards for light-duty vehicles in November 2011. Moving forward, it will be important for EPA to address carbon emissions for existing power plants as well. Existing plants represent a significant opportunity to improve efficiency and reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We can achieve these reductions at low cost while providing power plants flexibility in complying with them."

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access details from EPA (click here). Access the prepublication copy of the proposed rule (click here). Access the Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units (click here). Access a release from NMA (click here). Access a release from C2ES (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from WRI including links to related information (click here). [#Climate, #Air]
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