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EPA proposes emissions limits for new coal-, natural gas-fired plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed Clean Air Act standards to cut carbon emissions from new power plants.

The rule would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a new large natural gas-fired plant to 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while small gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh, but would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years.

The standard requires that new plants are built with emissions controls that are already being made in the power generation industry, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity President and CEO Robert “Mike” Duncan says the new rule will, in fact, ban the construction of new coal plants.

“Ironically, the EPA’s proposal could actually do long-term harm to the environment,” Duncan said in a statement. “By stopping the development of new coal plants, the EPA is halting the development of carbon capture and storage technologies. This misguided policy only adds insult to injury to an industry which has successfully used clean coal technologies to reduce many emissions by more than 90 percent.”

Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, says there needs to be an exemption for combined-cycle turbines.

“We will closely evaluate the proposal, its potential impact and the steps that EPA has taken to ensure natural gas combined-cycle plants can comply,” Kuhn said. “EPA must develop appropriate standard for both combustion turbine and combined-cycle units, and ensure that the proposed combined-cycle standard is achievable by every new unit.”

The American Public Power Association released a statement, saying that the rule as it pertains to requiring CCS technology at new coal-fired plants is “unrealistic” due to three facts: the White House is basing the viability of CCS on two demonstration projects that have not demonstrated if it is viable; oil fields, which are limited within the U.S., are the only places where CCS has been proven to work, and that financing for the technology will require “substantial government financial assistance.”

Conversely, environmental groups are throwing their support behind the proposals.

“Today, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first national standards for carbon pollution from future power plants,” according to the joint statement from eight groups. “This sets the United States on a course to address the largest source of carbon pollution in the nation, America’s aging power plants.”

EPA also began an outreach to a variety of stakeholders to help inform them of the development of emission guidelines for existing power plants. EPA must issue those standards by June 1, 2014.

To read the proposal, click here.

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