Jan. 7 — The Environmental Protection Agency is
scheduled to publish reproposed carbon dioxide limits for new power plants Jan. 8,
setting separate standards for coal-fired and natural gas-fired generating
The EPA released the proposal Sept. 20, following a schedule
President Barack Obama laid out, but the agency waited nearly four months to
publish the rule in the Federal Register.
The new plant performance
standards aren't expected to result in significant carbon dioxide emissions
reductions directly because the power sector has been investing in cheaper,
cleaner natural gas-fired units, rather than coal-fired units. However,
finalizing new-plant performance standards would trigger a requirement under
Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act for the EPA to issue similar emissions
guidelines for existing power plants, which are the largest source of
greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
The EPA is accepting comments
on the revised proposed rule though March 10 and will hold a public hearing
Jan. 28 in Washington.
could be taking its time with the rulemaking process to ensure the new-plant
rule is legally sound in order to protect its ability to establish
existing-plant regulations in the future, observers told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 7.
Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean
Air Agencies, said the existing-plant rule can't go forward if the new-plant
rule is overturned in court.
“The agency wants to make certain that
this rule is legally and technically credible, so that it does not get in the
way of triggering 111(d), which is where the most significant impacts will
occur,” Becker said.
The EPA told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Jan. 7 that
the government shutdown in October 2013 contributed to the lag time in
publishing the rule.
Jeff Holmstead, an attorney with Bracewell &
Giuliani LLP who previously was the EPA assistant administrator for air and
radiation, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 7 that the proposed rule assumes carbon
capture and sequestration technology has been adequately demonstrated, but
industry could challenge that assessment if the rule were finalized as
“That's going way out on a limb,” Holmstead said about the
feasibility of carbon capture and sequestration. “If that gets challenged and
gets overturned in court, that eliminates their ability to do anything for
Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining
Association, said Jan. 7 that the proposed rule “effectively bans coal from
America's power portfolio by conditioning new power generation on the use of
unproven technologies,” which sets “a dangerous and far-reaching precedent for
the broader economy.”
“Although today's story is about coal and
affordable electricity, tomorrow the story will concern other industries forced
to comply with arbitrary standards based on unproven technologies,” Quinn said
in a statement.
The EPA has
been working for years to establish carbon limits for new power plants.
The EPA issued its original proposal in April 2012. But the agency's
decision at the time to propose a single standard for both coal- and gas-fired
plants in the original rule was a potential legal vulnerability. New natural
gas plants probably could have met the standard, but it would have been more
difficult for new coal plants to meet it.
The revised proposal to be
published Jan. 8 withdraws the 2012 rule and proposes new standards.
a June 2013 announcement, Obama called on the EPA to repropose the standards
by Sept. 20 and finalize them “in a timely fashion.” In the same announcement,
Obama said the EPA should issue proposed guidelines to regulate existing power
plants by June 1, 2014, and final guidelines by June 1, 2015.
it is aggressive, but on the other hand, it's clearly [EPA Administrator Gina
McCarthy's] highest priority and almost certainly the highest priority of the
White House when it comes to environmental issues, so my guess is they will
probably meet their deadlines,” Holmstead said.
The reproposed rule would set carbon limits of 1,000 pounds per
megawatt-hour for new gas units and 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour for smaller
gas plants and new coal plants. New coal plants would have the option of
averaging their emissions over a seven-year period if they agreed to meet a
more stringent standard in a range between 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour and
1,050 pounds per megawatt-hour.
The April 2012 proposed rule would
have set a single standard of 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour for both coal-
and gas-fired plants.
After the proposed rule was released Sept. 20,
McCarthy said the EPA responded to concerns raised by the power industry by
offering separate performance standards for coal- and natural gas-fired units
and by setting a less-stringent standard for small natural gas-fired units
that are primarily used during times of peak electricity demand.
The EPA will accept comments through
March 10 at http://www.regulations.gov in Docket No.
EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0495. Comments submitted in response to the original April 2012
proposal won't be associated with this new proposed rule.
hearing on the rule will be 9 a.m. Jan. 28 at 1201 Constitution Ave., N.W. in
To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Coomes in
Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible
for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
The proposed rule is available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-28668.pdf.
For more information, contact Nick Hutson at EPA at (919) 541-2968or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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