In the first of a series of measures under President Obama’s climate plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday proposed strict new emissions limits for newly constructed power plants. Speaking at the National Press Club, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said newly built coal-fired power plants will have to keep CO2 emissions below 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour, while new gas-fired power plants will be limited to 1,000 pounds of C02 emissions per megawatt-hour.
Natural gas plants will have little trouble meeting the new standard, since that's essentially the level that they burn at already. But coal, well, coal's in trouble. Even the most advanced coal facility produces about 1,800 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, so the limits will effectively force the industry to innovate new technologies for carbon capture and sequestration. And since that technology has yete to be proven, the regulations would all but prevent any new power plant from using coal--a fuel that still provides about 37 percent of US electricity.
Needless to say, Republicans and industry officials are incensed. But, while pivotal, these regulations won’t have much immediate impact on either the environment or the coal industry. That’s because, thanks to cheap natural gas, building a new coal plant is already uneconomical.
Nevertheless, we can expect legal challenges to the new rules, which are actually slightly relaxed versions of regulations first proposed in April 2012. “It’s a devastating blow to our state, and we’re going to fight it in every way we can,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader from coal-heavy Kentucky, said (before he even saw the proposal).
Photo: AP via Politico