The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its official proposal of new limits on emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.
News of the proposal being in the making broke last month, but the actual release was somewhat delayed – until now.
The new rules would suggest CO2 pollution standards for coal and natural gas power plants with the intention of limiting their greenhouse gas (GHG) output and protecting public health, while also mitigating climate change.
As a result of the EPA’s new rules, if they come into effect, up to 617 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are expected to be avoided through 2042.
Furthermore, EPA also expects that the net health and climate benefits of its proposal will amount to $85 billion, also through 2042.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said: “EPA’s proposal relies on proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future. Alongside historic investment taking place across America in clean energy manufacturing and deployment, these proposals will help deliver tremendous benefits to the American people — cutting climate pollution.”
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Following through with the proposed limits will require very drastic emissions reduction, which, in turn, can be achieved with the help of control technologies that power plants can be equipped with directly.
Of course, the new EPA rules will also allow the operators of power plants enough time to align their investment decisions and long-term plans accordingly, as well, in order to still be able to deliver reliable and affordable electricity.
The rules do allow coal plants to continue working until 2040 but will have to utilize natural gas for 40% of fuel consumption. Those coal plants that are set to shutter by 2032 won’t be required to reduce emissions and there are additional concessions for those who shut down by 2035.
For the largest natural gas plants carbon capture will be required to prevent 90% of emission by 2035. Alternatively they can use hydrogen in their fuel mix in phases – 30% by 2032 and 96% by 2038.
Opponents from different sides
Both West Virgina senators have indicated that they will quickly move to block the proposal. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R) released a statement saying: “I plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval to protect workers and families from the disastrous impacts of these latest job-killing regulations”. Senator Manching called the draft “overreach”.
Some environmental organizations are also opposed to the EPA’s approach but their grievances come from the belief that carbon capture is an unproven technology that will prolong the use of fossil fuels. Food & Water Watch directly say “Carbon Capture Won’t Work“.
It seems the chances of the EPA’s proposal to be enacted are slim. But with another full year to finalize them, there is still time to fine-tune this balancing act, while allowing market forces to also change the energy mix of the country.
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