New rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could put a choke hold on the construction of new, conventional coal-fired powerplants, industry sources say.
On March 27, the EPA proposed the first-ever Clean Air Act standard for carbon emissions from new powerplants. The proposed rule—which does not apply to existing powerplants or plants that already have been permitted and will break ground within the next 12 months—would require power-generating units to limit emissions of carbon dioxide to 1,000 pounds per megawatt. Currently, there are no limitations on how much carbon dioxide can be emitted by powerplants.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters that the proposed limits "are in line with investments already being made throughout the utility industry. … We have been working with stakeholders every step of the way.”
But according to Eileen Claussen, the president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, while the majority of existing natural-gas-fired powerplants already would meet the proposed standard, most new coal-fired powerplants not already in the pipeline would need to capture and permanently sequester their greenhouse-gas emissions in order to meet the limit. "This underscores the urgency of stronger public and private investment in carbon capture and storage technologies,” she said in a statement.
Jackson said utilities that want to build new coal plants will have two alternative paths to meet the standard: employing carbon capture and storage (CCS) or ensuring their average limit meets the 1,000-MW requirement over 30 years.
"We continue to believe that [CCS] is viable [and] … we believe that coal will remain an important part of the nation's energy mix," Jackson said.
While environmental groups praised the announcement, some industry sources blasted EPA’s latest action. Steve Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said, "This is another in a series of new regulations written by EPA to prevent the U.S. from taking advantage of our vast coal resources, [which] are responsible for providing affordable electricity for America’s families and businesses. This latest rule will make it impossible to build any new coal-fueled powerplants and could cause the premature closure of many more coal-fueled powerplants operating today.”
The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register.