The top Energy and Climate Reportstories for the week of Feb. 3-7 revolved around the Clean Air Act new source performance standards the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in January to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Once finalized, the standards for new plants will trigger a requirement for states to regulate emissions from existing plants.
1. EPA Official Says 'Ambitious' Goals for Rule on Existing Coal-Fired Plants Are Achievable
This Feb. 3 story covers remarks made by Janet McCabe, EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, at a conference in Phoenix, in which she said goals for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plant rules are expected remain on track. In June 2013, President Barack Obama called on the EPA to finalize standards for new plants “in a timely fashion” and to propose guidelines for states to regulate existing power plants by June 1, and finalize the guidelines by June 2015. McCabe also praised the utility industry for working with the EPA, adding that among the feedback the agency is receiving are suggestions that states be allowed to put together plans that are based on the guidelines and that fit individual states needs as well as take multistate approaches.
2. Carbon Capture Is Not Demonstrated Technology, Industry Groups Tell EPA
During a public hearing Feb. 6 on carbon dioxide standards for new power plants, industry groups disputed the EPA's assertion that carbon capture systems, which is the technology new coal-fired power plants would have to install to meet a 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour standard, is commercially available and viable. As covered in a Feb. 6 story, industry groups claim that none of the projects cited by the EPA in the proposed rule as examples of carbon capture being deployed have begun operation and cannot be cited to show the technology's viability. Also at the hearing, environmental groups urged the EPA to propose an even more stringent standard for carbon dioxide emissions from new natural gas combined cycle plants, claiming that the EPA does not anticipate any new coal-fired power plants being built in the near future due to market forces. Therefore, standards for new natural gas facilities—now proposed at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxde per megawatt hour—should be set so that actual emissions reductions are required, they said.
3. EPA Says Power Plant Carbon Capture Rule Wouldn't Violate Energy Policy Act of 2005
As covered in this Feb. 6 story, the EPA claims that the proposed carbon standard for new plants, which would require the use of carbon capture and storage systems, wouldn't violate the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as critics contend. The law bars the EPA from issuing standards based on technology that receives federal funding or tax incentives under the act, and three of the four carbon capture projects the EPA cited in its proposed rule have received such support. In a notice, the EPA acknowledged the power plants received the funding but said the projects are only one reason the agency believes carbon capture is feasible, and the agency can consider their experience in conjunction with other supporting evidence. “The EPA's rationale does not depend solely upon those projects, and the determination remains adequately supported without any information from facilities that have been allocated” the tax credit, the agency wrote in a notice that was posted on its website and will be published in the Federal Register.
4. Inhofe Bill Would Allow States to Opt Out of EPA Power Plant Regulations
States could opt out of carbon dioxide standards for power plants under a bill introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), as detailed in this Feb. 5 story. The legislation “will allow states to keep their power plants open if they believe it is necessary to maintain electricity [production], reliability, and affordability,” Inhofe said. “In other words, the states can opt out.” The Electricity Reliability and Affordability Act of 2014 (S. 1988) is the latest legislative effort targeting the EPA's efforts to limit the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from new and existing power plants. In the House, a Republican-led effort to significantly curtail the EPA's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants is poised for floor action in the weeks ahead. The Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826), authored by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Jan. 28
5. Peer Review of Carbon Capture Studies Not Adequate, Watchdog Group Tells EPA
According to the government watchdog group, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, the EPA did not adequately peer review the studies it used to demonstrate that carbon capture is viable for new coal-fired power plants in its proposed carbon dioxide standard. As detailed in this Feb. 3 story, the group, which advocates for greater transparency in rulemaking, said in a letter to the agency that data on carbon capture technology was not reviewed in accordance with the requirements of the Data Quality Act. According to the letter, the Energy Department studies upon which the EPA relied to show that carbon capture is available for new coal-fired power plants are “highly influential scientific assessments” that should be subject to an outside peer review process. The letter asks the EPA to outline a peer review process for the studies before the comment period on the proposed rule closes March 10. Otherwise, the center asked the EPA to extend the public comment period so that commenters can discuss the peer review proposal.
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