Friday, September 20, 2013

EPA Proposes CO2 Standards For The Power Sector

Sep 20: On June 25, 2013, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum, as part of his Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/25/13 & See WIMS 6/26/13], directing U.S. EPA to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for the power sector using authority under section 111 of the Clean Air Act to issue standards, regulations or guidelines, as appropriate.. The Presidential Memorandum directed EPA to build on state leadership, provide flexibility and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies towards building a cleaner power sector.  For newly built power plants, the plan calls for EPA to issue a new proposal by September, 20, 2013, and to issue a final rule in a timely fashion after considering all public comments, as appropriate.  For existing plants, the plan calls for EPA to issue proposed carbon pollution standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate, for modified and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2014 and issue final standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate, by no later than June 1, 2015.

    Today EPA proposed Clean Air Act standards to cut carbon pollution from new power plants in order to combat climate change and improve public health. In addition, EPA has initiated broad-based outreach and direct engagement with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish carbon pollution standards for existing power plants and build on state efforts to move toward a cleaner power sector. The proposal achieves the first milestone outlined in President Obama's June 25 Memorandum to EPA on "Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards," a major part of the President's Climate Action Plan.

    EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, "Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. 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."

    Under EPA's proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (CO2/MWh), while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds CO2/MWh . New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds CO2/MWh, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

    EPA said these proposed standards will ensure that new power plants are built with available clean technology to limit carbon pollution, a requirement that is in line with investments in clean energy technologies that are already being made in the power industry. Additionally, these standards provide flexibility by allowing sources to phase in the use of some of these technologies, and they ensure that the power plants of the future use cleaner energy technologies -- such as efficient natural gas, advanced coal technology, nuclear power, and renewable energy like wind and solar. In response to recent information and developments in the power sector and more than 2.5 million public comments, including those from the power sector and environmental groups, the proposal sets separate standards for new gas-fired and coal-fired power plants.

    EPA indicates that power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. In addition, more than 25 states have set energy efficiency targets, and more than 35 have set renewable energy targets. While the United States has limits in place for arsenic, mercury and lead pollution that power plants can emit, currently, there are no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. The Agency is seeking comment and information on the proposed rules, including holding a public hearing, 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. In a separate action, EPA is rescinding the April 2012 proposal.

    Separately, EPA has initiated outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders that will help inform the development of emission guidelines for existing power plants. EPA intends to work closely with the states to ensure strategies for reducing carbon pollution from existing sources are flexible, account for regional diversity, and embrace common sense solutions, allowing the United States to continue utilizing every fuel source available. In accordance with the June 25 Presidential Memorandum, EPA will issue proposed standards for existing power plants by June 1, 2014. 

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee said, "Every day across the nation we see the harmful impacts of climate change, and we must reduce carbon pollution to protect public health and safeguard future generations. EPA's proposed standard for new power plants is a critical and appropriate step forward in addressing the biggest source of carbon pollution."

    Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee said, "Today's proposal maintains EPA's pie in the sky standard-setting mentality despite the Agency's admission that unilateral regulations would have no impact on global emissions levels. EPA completely ignores other nations' missteps, and the severe negative impacts from trying to address carbon emissions. Their actions have resulted in economic uncertainty, job loss, and increased electricity prices, yet the Agency continues to barrel on -- full speed ahead."

    House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "EPA is doubling down on its economically destructive plan to essentially end the construction of new coal-fired power plants in America. The proposed standards would require the use of expensive new technologies that are not commercially viable. We are the Saudi Arabia of coal, but this impractical rule restricts access to one of our most abundant, affordable, and dependable energy sources. The consequences will be more job losses and a weaker economy. These stringent standards will actually discourage investment and the development of innovative new technologies that can help us meet the world's future energy and environmental challenges. The right policies should embrace our energy abundance as part of the solution. The committee will soon hold a hearing on this latest regulatory grab as part of our ongoing effort to protect Americans and jobs from unnecessary and costly red tape."

    The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change led by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Ranking Member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee applauded the proposed rules. Rep. Waxman said, "The EPA proposal is a double winner: pro-environment and pro-growth. It sets achievable standards for new power plants that will spur innovation in clean coal technologies like carbon capture and sequestration.  And the proposal will clean up the air and make the U.S. a world leader in advanced pollution-control technology.  The Administration is on track in implementing the President's Climate Action Plan."

    U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten said in part, "It is clear that the EPA is continuing to move forward with a strategy that will write off our huge, secure, affordable coal resources by essentially outlawing the construction of new coal plants. The EPA had the chance to craft a regulation that recognized the value of the 'all of the above' energy strategy endorsed by President Obama, and ensured that standards were achievable and based upon commercially and economically viable technology. Instead, they have released yet another major regulation that will hamper economic growth and job creation, and could lead to higher energy costs for American families and businesses. Furthermore, we continue to believe that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. . ."

    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a release saying in part, "Any policy to reduce GHG emissions must be coupled with a comprehensive energy strategy that promotes diversity, efficiency, affordability and reliability so that American manufacturers can expand, innovate and create jobs. While we are pleased that EPA's re-proposed NSPS for new power plants sets separate standards for different fuel types, we are concerned that the emission limit for coal combustion technologies is unachievable and will harm energy diversity by effectively ending construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States. Even new facilities that employ the most state-of-the-art technology in commercial use today -- so-called 'supercritical' plants -- will be unable to meet the standard. . ."

    Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said in part, "We have an obligation to protect future generations from climate change. This is a critical step in that direction. The standard makes clear that tomorrow's power plants won't be built at the expense of our children's future. It signals that we're moving, as a country, to the clean energy solutions we need. And it will help safeguard the most vulnerable among us -- our children and elderly people -- from smog worsened by climate change. . ."
    Fred Krupp President of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "Right now there are no limits at all on the largest source of carbon pollution, so this is a necessary and commonsense step. As communities across our country struggle with terrible floods, droughts, and wildfires, these standards will finally put a limit on the carbon pollution that new power plants emit into our skies. Cleaner power generation will protect our children from dangerous smog, extreme weather, and other serious climate impacts, and ensure that America leads the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies."

     Access a release from EPA with links to related information (click here). Access links to the proposed rule; fact sheet; technical fact sheet; regulatory impact statement and commenting information (click here). Access a release from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access a release from Sen. Vitter (click here). Access a release from Rep. Upton (click here). Access a release from the Bicameral Task Force (click here). Access a release from U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a release from ACC (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). [#Climate, #Air, #Energy/EGU]