April 1 --The White House is reviewing an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would set the first carbon dioxide emissions limits for existing power plants.
However, the EPA has revealed few details of what the proposed new source performance standards might entail. The EPA sent its proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review March 31.
“They're doing a pretty good job of keeping secrets,” David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, told Bloomberg BNA April 1.
The carbon dioxide standard for existing power plants would follow similar standards the EPA proposed for new facilities in January. Power plants are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. There are 6,997 operational power plants operating 19,023 generating units in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration.
The EPA proposed in January new source performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil fuel-fired power plants (RIN 2060-AQ91). The proposal. issued under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act would limit new natural gas-fired power plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour with a performance standard of 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour for coal-fired units and some smaller natural gas power plants (79 Fed. Reg. 1,430).
President Barack Obama ordered the EPA to issue similar emissions standards for existing power plants by June 1 with a final rule due in June 2015 as part of his climate action plan .
Unlike the 111(b) standards, the emissions guidelines for existing power plants issued under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act would be administered by state and local air pollution regulators to a process similar to that used by the EPA to approve state implementation plans. States must submit their implementation plans to the EPA for approval by June 2016.
“The presidential memorandum specifically directs 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,” the EPA said in its description of the proposed rule.
The NRDC said in a March report that existing power plants could reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 470 million to 700 million tons annually by 2020 when compared to 2012 levels while providing between $28 billion and $63 billion in total health benefits .
“We hope and believe our approach has had influence, but we don't have any confirmation of what's in the package.” Doniger said.
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