Last week's top five Energy and ClimateReport stories covered the Environmental Protection Agency's upcoming standards for existing power plants, greenhouse gas permits in Texas, and the price of carbon capture and storage technology.
1. EPA 'On Track' to Issue Greenhouse Gas Rule for Existing Power Plants, McCarthy Says
According to remarks by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, as covered in a Feb. 10 story, the agency is on track to issue emissions guidelines for states to base regulations to limit carbon dioxide from existing power plants. The proposed guidelines are slated to be issued in June and finalized by June 2015, after which states would be required to submit plans by June 2016 detailing how the guidelines will be implemented. McCarthy said regulators in issuing the guidelines will try to ensure “every sensitivity” to the jobs and communities that have played a role in generating power from traditional energy resources for decades. The forthcoming regulation has already prompted strong opposition among industry groups and many in Congress for the impact it could have on the coal industry. Congressmen from coal-producing regions argue that the emissions standards will cost thousands of workers their jobs and will further devastate communities in those areas. McCarthy said the EPA will fully consider those impacts as it works to develop as flexible a proposal as possible, while also ensuring significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
2. EPA Delegates Authority to Texas to Issue Greenhouse Gas Permits
As covered in a Feb. 7 story, Texas is a step closer to issuing its own greenhouse gas permits under the Clean Air Act after EPA delegated the state the authority to do so. Texas initially rejected the federal permit program that became effective in 2011 which prompted EPA to take over the program. However, a backlog of permits resulted, delaying projects in the state, which led the legislature to decide that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is the preferred permitting authority. Texas won't be able to issue permits, however, until the EPA approves state implementation plan revisions and lifts the federal plan, which isn't expected to happen until later this year. The permits will include preconstruction and operating permits.
3. Capito Says Congress Unlikely to Block EPA Greenhouse Gas Rules for Power Plants
A candidate for an open Senate seat in coal-rich West Virginia doesn't think Congress will be able to block EPA new source performance standards and emissions guidelines for power plants. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), whose remarks are covered in a Feb. 7 story, said she will continue to interact with the EPA but said congressional efforts to block or blunt the impacts will not be successful. Capito, who said McCarthy had been "on the up and up" throughout the rulemaking process, criticized the agency for turning a "deaf ear" to states whose economies rely on coal such as West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky. Given the agency plans to move ahead with the standards for existing power plants, she said she hopes the rule would provide some dispensation for areas that are more reliant on coal for energy generation.
4. Affordable, Reliable Energy Remains Goal for Existing Power Plant Rules, McCabe Says
Crafting flexible emission guidelines for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants that ensures continued affordable and reliable energy remains the goal of the EPA, Janet McCabe, acting EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, told a group of utility commissioners. As covered in a Feb. 11 story, McCabe told the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners that the agency has held at least 200 meetings with a wide range of parties on the regulation and will continue to pursue outreach opportunities even after the proposed rule is issued in June. Other frequent issues the EPA has noted in meetings include providing enough time for compliance that recognizes differences in state energy profiles, allowing regional approaches to addressing carbon dioxide emissions and protecting against stranded assets—in this case coal-fired generating units that lose economic value well ahead of their anticipated useful lives.
5. Carbon Capture Could Increase Wholesale Price of Energy by 80 Percent, Official Says
Requiring the use of carbon capture and sequestration technologies at coal-fired power plants could increase the wholesale price of electricity between 70 percent and 80 percent, according to Julio Friedmann, deputy assistant secretary for clean coal at the Energy Department. As detailed in a Feb. 11 story, he gave that estimate to a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing. Friedmann said the first generation of CCS technologies could cost $70 to $90 per ton of carbon dioxide captured, but said a second generation of technologies could drop that cost to $40 to $50 per ton. “It is in fact a substantial percentage increase in the cost of electricity, but in part, that's because the current price of coal is so low,” he said. Many lawmakers and utility groups say the technology isn't commercially feasible and would make it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in the U.S.
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