Obama Moves to Limit Power-Plant Carbon Pollution

ABC News – by DINA CAPPIELLO Associated Press

Linking global warming to public health, disease and extreme weather, the Obama administration pressed ahead Friday with tough requirements to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, despite protests from industry and Republicans that it would dim coal’s future.

The proposal, which would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants, is intended to help reshape where Americans get electricity, moving from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It’s also a key step in President Barack Obama’s global warming plans, because it would put in motion proposals to end what he called “the limitless dumping of carbon pollution” from all power plants.  

Under the law once the Environmental Protection Agency controls carbon at new plants, it will also control carbon at existing plants — a regulation the agency said Friday it would start work on immediately to meet a June 2014 deadline.

Yet the federal government’s own analysis of the new power plant proposal concludes that it would have a “negligible” impact on carbon dioxide emissions, pose little to no costs for the industry and provide no additional benefits to the public by 2022. That’s because it essentially locks in what was widely expected to happen anyway. Even without new federal regulations, the agency concluded that no new coal plants would have been built without carbon controls. Instead, the bulk of new power in this country would be supplied by natural gas, which already meets the standard announced Friday.

“The EPA … does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets or the U.S. economy,” the EPA wrote in its analysis.

The industry, and its allies in Congress, quickly dismissed that conclusion.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the agency was holding the coal industry to “impossible standards.”

“If these regulations go into effect,” he said, “American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar and economic uncertainty will grow.”

Deck Slone, a senior vice president at Arch Coal, said that the technology was simply not available to clean coal plant emissions.

“We believe that coal plants with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions will be achievable in time, but such technology is simply not available today,” he said. “The administration’s proposal goes way too far, way too fast — and threatens to arrest rather than spur technology advances.”

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a speech Friday that rather than damage an industry, the proposed regulations would help the industry to adapt, by encouraging energy companies to develop ways to reduce carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, from burning coal.

“This proposal, rather than killing future coal, actually sets up a certain pathway forward for coal to continue to be part of the diverse mix in this country,” McCarthy said. “We know that coal is going to be part of the energy generation that we rely on substantially over the next few decades. Why wouldn’t we now acknowledge and invest in the kind of technologies that will allow coal a future long beyond that?”

McCarthy pressed her case by linking global warming to environmental problems that include severe weather, disease and worsening of other types of air pollution.

“We know this is not just about melting glaciers,” McCarthy said. “Climate change — caused by carbon pollution — is one of the most significant public health threats of our time.”

Despite some tweaks, the rule packs the same punch as one announced last year, which received more than 2.5 million comments and was legally vulnerable because it required coal and natural gas to meet the same limit.

Coal and natural gas now have separate standards, but the effect is the same: New coal-fired power plants will need to install expensive technology to capture between 30 and 50 percent of their carbon dioxide and bury it underground. No coal-fired power plant has done that yet, in large part because of the cost. Virtually all new natural gas plants would meet the standard without additional controls.

The EPA’s own analysis says that a new natural gas-fired plant would cost $891 per kilowatt. But a new coal plant built to meet the standard would cost between $3,274 and $3,301 per kilowatt.

Environmental groups praised the proposal for taking action against the largest remaining uncontrolled source of greenhouse gas pollution. That pollution, the EPA said Friday, is worsening air quality, water quality, disease and contributing to more severe weather.

“Big polluters have been getting a free ride for decades, while Americans foot the bill in the form of asthma attacks, respiratory illness, floods, wildfires and superstorms,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

The regulations have been in the works since 2011 and stem from a 1970 law passed by Congress to control air pollution. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that law, the Clean Air Act, could be applied to heat-trapping pollution. The EPA already has issued rules aimed at curbing global warming pollution from automobiles and the largest industrial sources.

Coal was already struggling to compete with cheaper natural gas. It now accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. electricity, a share that was already shrinking.

The EPA pointed to four coal-fired power plants under development — in Texas, Mississippi, California and Saskatchewan, Canada — to show that the rule is possible to meet.

Yet one of the companies behind those plants, Southern Co., said Friday that its Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi “cannot be consistently replicated on a national scale.” The facility, scheduled to open in May 2014, is located close to low-cost lignite coal. It is also adjacent to an oil field, where the carbon dioxide will be injected to produce more oil.

The company also has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and tax credits to offset the cost.

The revised standards, the company said in a statement, “essentially eliminate coal as a future generation option.”


Follow Dina Cappiello on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dinacappiello


5 thoughts on “Obama Moves to Limit Power-Plant Carbon Pollution

  1. Clean coal technology is out there because its being looked at by the UK government to convert some oil burners back to cheap coal burners and other stations to bitumen burners.

    What it is about is maximising profits, fitting the scrubbers and cleaners will eat into their precious profits so they try and frighten people into lost jobs, soaring prices scenarios but its hogwash.

    1. Even better is solar and wind.

      If the government was our government, they’d offer generous tax breaks to people and businesses to retrofit solar panels on their homes and buildings. And wind turbines.

      Not only would that reduce the need for coal fired plants, it would also generate jobs for Americans out of work in the building and installation of the panels and turbines.

      But that would also give people a certain amount of freedom and that’s the last thing DC wants to do.

      1. Wind power is sadly not the wonder we expected here, the turbines themselves are proving troublesome, expensive to repair and prone to failure, the proposed wave booms have all been scrapped and solar panels is just laughed at by government as being ineffective.

        We have 300 years at least of easy to mine coal, many old and proud communities were wiped out when Thatcher forced coal burners to oil and allowed us to buy cheap Indian and Polish coal which is not as good as “Welsh best black steam” grade coal which burns at twice the calorific value than the Indian and Polish stuff, we could also go back to coal gas extraction and use the coke produced in power stations too, revitalising a lost industry and creating jobs, wealth and dignity in many towns across the country.

        But the UK government lurves nuclear power oh yes indeedy, yet refuses to work towards Thorium uptake despite it being cheaper, safer, no danger to the environment and no nasty weapony elements either. They don’t want to use bitumen but Venezuela sells it dirt cheap and it is sitting on a raft of the stuff estimated at trillions of barrels that even if we went to burning bitumen in every station, it would still last several centuries.

        What we need to do is get ourselves off the oil teat, keep oil for making petrol sure but if we burn using clean technology coal and tar, its cheap, plentiful, can be scrubbed pretty much of all harmful exhausts, coupled with a move towards fusion or Thorium and suddenly our dependence on the Middle East is nullified.

  2. It doesn’t matter to these lunatics that the “Global Warming” tide of dung has been repeatedly proven to be a hoax. Like 9-11, or Sandy Hook, they’ll ignore all facts and continue onward with their agenda, which in this case is just another angle to squeeze more money out of the population so a few billionaire Zionists can have a few more pennies.

    And they’ll always need a gang of immoral, lying con-artists like Obama and congress to help them steal.

    1. Tony Blair alone is making many millions a year for free out of carbon credits, there was an article how he is using layered front companies in tax cons and carbon credit manipulation.

      Did you know Blair is behind Schwarzenegger and others push to have the law in the US changed so that naturalised citizens can be President? Its not for Blair himself but his rancid son who is fast becoming a puppeteer over there and has been working a lot with the White House. Teflon Tony himself is still after the EU presidency despite being told there would be mass civil disobedience if he did become it.

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