Update: EPA proposes first carbon standard for future power plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. The proposal does not apply to plants currently operating or new permitted plants that begin construction over the next 12 months.

The proposed rule has been in the making for years and would require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants, however, emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the Administration is aware of 15 coal plants that are in the permitting process or currently under construction. According to the proposal, these plants would already comply with the standard. EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this proposed standard.

The power sector currently accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the proposed rule is not an effort to terminate coal generation. “We believe that coal will remain an important part of America’s electric generating mix; (it will) remain the largest single source of electricity in our nation’s future.”

However, many in the power industry view the proposed rule as an attack on coal generation.“By banning the future of efficient and effective coal in the United States, coal may instead by exported and used overseas,” said Scott Segal, executive director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC).

Many in the power industry believe the Administration is pushing for a gradual shift toward natural gas through this proposed rule, as well as other recent regulations, such as the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule. But with gas prices facing remarkably low rates, an industry-wide switch to natural gas could be perilous if prices escalate again.

"In that case, we may be missing coal," said Paul Forrester, partner at Mayer Brown.

“In the rule proposal, we looked at what happens if the price of natural gas goes up, and it’s fair to say the price would have to rise dramatically … for the economics of this rule to change,” Jackson said.

Under the proposed regulation, new coal plant operators will have two options for compliance: Using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology to limit carbon emissions, or averaging carbon emissions over a 30-year period.

“Plants that choose to pursue new coal have to look at a 30-year horizon to meet the 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt,” Jackson said.

For the first 10 years of the 30-year averaging, a plant would be permitted to emit up to 1,800 pounds of CO2 per megawatt.

Segal said that CCS technology is “still highly speculative, likely expensive, and EPA has provided no assurance that it will help with inevitable permit delays.”

Todd Palmer, a partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, said there could be other options for complying with the proposed regulations, such as designing a new fossil-fired facility as a combined heat and power plant (CHP). “We’re going to see more and more industrial facilities looking at on-site CHP. The power from the CHP unit would go to the host facility; it would not be sold retail, and therefore would not be subject to this rule.”

While Jackson said that EPA has “no plans” to adjust greenhouse gas levels at existing plants, some in the power industry fear that EPA might create such a regulation after the November presidential election.

“We have little confidence that the Administration will adhere to this view, particularly after the election is over,” Segal said.

The proposed rule could potentially result in the extinction of new coal-fired generation, but it will first have to face federal lawsuits already in existence. “Lawsuits are currently pending as to whether EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and if they do, to what extent,” Palmer said.

EPA is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA’s comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Steve Fine, vice president of ICF International, said a final rule will likely come “later this year, presumably sometime after the election.”

For more information, go to http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/.

Read more emissions regulation news

Sponsored by FLSmidth

Related Articles

EPA releases coal ash rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced the agency will now consider coal ash on the same level as household waste as opposed to hazardous waste. Household garbage and coal ash are both listed in the solid waste category, a stretch from the hazardous waste classification.

NRC: DOE’s Yucca Mountain R&D meet NRC requirements

The staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published Volume 4 of its safety evaluation report on a proposed underground used nuclear fuel repository in Nevada.

Follow Power Engineering on Twitter

Latest News

NCC Report: DOE must develop stronger policy to foster adequate carbon capture and storage

The National Coal Council (NCC) today released a new study in response to a request by Secret...
CASL DOE light water reactors LWR research and development

DOE extends funding for light water reactor research consortium

MHPS to take over thermal power business

Effective April 1, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) will take over the business in the...

Builder projects 18-month delay for nuclear plant in Georgia

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) said the firms building its new nuclear power plant in Georgia estima...

Alstom to maintain Olkiluoto nuclear island equipment

Alstom was awarded a five-year contract to maintain equipment at the Olkiluoto nuclear power ...
2014 Projects of the Year

Power Engineering Photo of the Day

Capstone Turbine corporation shale oil and gas microturbines Horizon Power Systems

Capstone Turbine Receives Follow-On Order for Fifteen C65s from Horizon Power Systems

Capstone Turbine Corp. received an order for 15 C65 microturbines for shale oil and gas custo...
Yucca Mountain Nevada nuclear spent fuel waste repository DOE application NRC review SER evaluation volumes

NRC publishes last two volumes of Yucca Mountain safety evaluation

The NRC published two more volumes of its safety evaluation on a geologic high-level nuclear ...

Power Engineering Current Issue

03/01/2014
Volume 118, Issue 3
1403PE-cover

Products Showcase

Dynamic Fluoride Ion cleaning DFIC of industrial natural gas turbines Hi-Tech Furnace Systems

Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning of IGT Parts

The Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning (DFIC) Process from Hi-Tech Furnace Systems is able to clean deep, narrow cracks of oxides by cycling between negative, atmospheric, and positive pressure.

Archived Articles

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Power Industry Wire News

Intergraph(R) Releases PV Elite(R) 2015 With New Modeling Capabilities and Other Productivity Enhancements

Intergraph(R) Releases PV Elite(R) 2015 With New Modeling Capabilities and Other Produc...

Utility Execs Explain How to Centralize Crew Management Before and After Storms

Utility Execs Explain How to Centralize Crew Management Before and After Storms

Con Edison 2016 Rate Plan Cites Reliability, Storm Prep, Better Technology

Con Edison 2016 Rate Plan Cites Reliability, Storm Prep, Better Technology

Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) Testing Evidences 20% Reduction With Use of CyberFuels Dynamo(TM) Cetane Booster

Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) Testing Evidences 20% Reduction With Use of CyberFuels ...

Miller Energy Declares Cash Dividends on Its Series B, Series C and Series D Preferred Stock

Miller Energy Declares Cash Dividends on Its Series B, Series C and Series D Preferred ...

Power Engineering

Article Archives for Power Engineering Magazine

Continuing Education

Professional Development Hours

To access a course listing associated to a specific topic listed below, click on the topic of choice from the list below.

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>