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‘Twilight for Coal in the United States’: EPA Announces New Regs on ‘War on Poverty’ Anniversary

Rules depend on studies not allowed under law and would require technology not commercially available.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

January 8, 2014 - 8:05 pm

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency moved forward with a proposed rule to require coal-fired power plants to install a technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that the Government Accountability Office found won’t be commercially viable for several years.

The EPA first proposed new caps on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired electricity generating units in April 2012 and received more than 2.5 million public comments on the rules. In the proposed rule filed with the Federal Register on Wednesday, the EPA said it is withdrawing the 2012 proposal and moving forward with new substitute rules.

“This action proposes a separate standard of performance for fossil fuel-fired electric utility steam generating units and integrated gasification combined cycle units that burn coal, petroleum coke and other fossil fuels that is based on partial implementation of carbon capture and storage as the best system of emission reduction,” the rule states. “This action also proposes standards for natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbines based on modern, efficient natural gas combined cycle technology as the best system of emission reduction.”

The new rules would put a limit on emissions of carbon dioxide to 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity from coal-fired plants. For new natural gas plants, the threshold is 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour. Smaller natural gas plants get a 1,100-pound limit.

To meet those standards, plants will have to install carbon capture and sequestration technology, which stores the carbon dioxide in geologic formations. A 2010 GAO study found that the technology might be ready in 10 or 15 years, dependent on overcoming economic, legal and technical hurdles — but those barriers remain unconquered today.

“Stakeholders told GAO that while components of CCS have been used commercially in other industries, their application remains at a small scale in coal power plants, with only one fully integrated CCS project operating at a coal plant,” that report said. “…In particular, with respect to CCS, stakeholders highlighted the large costs to install and operate current CCS technologies, the fact that large scale demonstration of CCS is needed in coal plants, and the lack of a national carbon policy to reduce CO2 emissions or a legal framework to govern liability for the permanent storage of large amounts of CO2.”

“…According to reports and stakeholders, the successful deployment of CCS technologies is critical to meeting the ambitious emissions reductions that are currently being considered in the United States while retaining coal as a fuel source. Most stakeholders told GAO that CCS would increase electricity costs, and some reports estimate that current CCS technologies would increase electricity costs by about 30 to 80 percent at plants using these technologies.”

Because of the effect opponents say the new rules will have on jobs, they wryly noted the date that the administration chose to proceed with the regulations.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable that on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, the EPA has just announced another regulation that will increase poverty in coal country,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

“Less than one day after President Obama pledged to help unemployed Americans, his administration is rolling out red tape that will destroy more jobs and increase energy costs,” Barrasso said. ”In addition to contradicting current law, this new regulation will put more Americans out of work and make it even harder for people to provide for their families. It’s now more important than ever for Congress to pass the National Energy Tax Repeal Act and protect American jobs across coal country.”

That bill, which would “prohibit any regulations promulgated pursuant to a presidential memorandum relating to power sector carbon pollution standards from taking effect,” is stuck in committee with 14 Republican co-sponsors representing coal country.

The leading Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee noted that the EPA leaned on three Energy Department funded studies to justify the requirement that CCS technology be “adequately demonstrated” — even though the EPA is forbidden by law from relying on Clean Coal Power Initiative studies to meet that standard.

“In typical EPA fashion, they’re putting the cart before the horse to advance their environmental policy agenda,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). “They’re moving forward with a controversial rule to regulate carbon based on technology that isn’t commercially available.”

“Not only is this wrongheaded, it’s beyond the scope of their legal authority.”

The Sierra Club lauded the setbacks for the coal industry in 2013, noting that 30 percent of coal plants currently operating in the U.S. have announced plans to “retire.” Over the past year, an average of three coal plants per month announced they would shut down.

“Now, more than ever, it’s clear that it is twilight for coal in the United States,” said Bruce Nilles, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “2013 was the year that clean energy became cheaper than coal. Add in that no one is building new coal plants, and the only remaining question is how quickly can we replace the remaining coal plants.”

The U.S. boasts nearly 30 percent of the globe’s coal reserves and generates about 40 percent of the electricity used in the country.

“Unfortunately, the proposed rule will also stymie future research into clean coal technologies and/or carbon capture utilization and storage. Is this an unintended consequence, or an intended one?” said Betsy Monseu, CEO of the American Coal Council.

The Environmental Defense Fund said today that “while some folks may be dismissing climate change because of the current blisteringly cold weather in parts of the U.S., we are still very clearly seeing the long-term trend of warming that experts at leading scientific and government agencies (like NASA and many, many others) agree is occurring.”

“There are opposition forces working to derail EPA’s efforts to address carbon pollution. We need all of the support we can muster to ensure EPA goes forward with its commonsense standards that will help ensure the healthier, clean energy future we know we must achieve for the sake of our children and grandchildren.”

Comments on the revised rules close on March 10.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
And, in case your power supplier has to jack up your rates do to the retirement of coal-fired plants, and you're looking for an alternative means to heat your humble abode, the EPA just released new regs to cut down the amount of particulate production of wood-fired stoves.
How long before they're applied to fireplaces too?
And, Yes, I am aware that in many "pristine" areas in the Front Range, the use of wood in fireplaces, and wood-stoves and heaters, is not allowed.

We will huddle in our damp, cold caves cursing the darkness while our betters in Malibu, Pacific Grove, and the Hamptons toast the future with bubbly.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every EPA rule since 1990 needs to be immidiately repealed, their budget, staffing, and mission reduced back to the level they were in 1990 (in non-inflation adjusted dollars). Then it's very existence should be studied every ten years.

Mission creep doesn't begin to describe the criminal behavior of this out of control organization.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The EPA must be using crystal ball technology to make its climate forecasts which is not available to the rest of us.

To encourage the adoption of the new emissions rules, I urge the EPA to shut down the coal-fired generating plants which serve Washington, DC first and set an example for the rest of the country to follow.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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EPA’s director and all other uninformed zealots who govern it ‒e.g. Barry Hussein Obama, the most stupid narcist in his undeserved position‒ still talking and mandating manmade CO2 to be stored underground ‒while nature and all life on earth would then die of CO2 starvation‒ should be kicked out of their devastating bureaucratic jobs!
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Democracy cannot and will not survive madness like this.

14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
And, in case your power supplier has to jack up your rates do to the retirement of coal-fired plants, and you're looking for an alternative means to heat your humble abode, the EPA just released new regs to cut down the amount of particulate production of wood-fired stoves.
How long before they're applied to fireplaces too?
And, Yes, I am aware that in many "pristine" areas in the Front Range, the use of wood in fireplaces, and wood-stoves and heaters, is not allowed.

We will huddle in our damp, cold caves cursing the darkness while our betters in Malibu, Pacific Grove, and the Hamptons toast the future with bubbly.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every EPA rule since 1990 needs to be immidiately repealed, their budget, staffing, and mission reduced back to the level they were in 1990 (in non-inflation adjusted dollars). Then it's very existence should be studied every ten years.

Mission creep doesn't begin to describe the criminal behavior of this out of control organization.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're too generous.
They need to be disbanded immediately, the offices leveled, and the staff cast to the four-corners of the wilderness they so much admire.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Any move that makes the west even more dependent on the middle east for fuel supplies would be suicidal under the present circumstances. Coal is what the west has in abundance, and mines must be kept ready to go on a moment's notice.
The energy we have in our own backyards will help us resist pressure to submit ti Islamic pressure and abandon Israel to the wolves. W must also overcome our fears about nuclear energy.nits clean and safe plants can be built.
As for new regulations, the EPA might have to put up with some pollution until the new technology can be put into action.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
We import zero from the Middle East for electricity. Reducing coal won't increase our oil imports by a single drop, it will just increase our usage of wind and natural gas (mostly gas).
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reducing coal will cause electricity shortages and sky-high utility rates.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here is a table from some government agency on how much petroleum is used for power generation in the U.S. Looks like a lot. http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_05_02_a.html

I don't know how this compares to U.S. oil production.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's the opposite of a lot.

Oil provides about 1/2 of a percent of US electricity (and dropping).
http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/showtext.cfm?t=ptb0804a

Oil for electricity consumes less than 1/3 of a percent of total US oil consumption: http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_cons_psup_dc_nus_mbbl_a.htm

Numbers don't mean a thing if you don't have a scale. In the US, oil for electricity is completely negligible any way you look at it.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's good to hear. Is shutting down coal-fired generation a good idea or a bad idea then? Maybe the market should be allowed to decide, rather than EPA regulators. I imagine the capital costs of switching fuel sources must be substantial.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Electrical generation is supposed to transition to the use of Nat-Gas - which enjoys great price point due to the expansion of extraction by fracking. But then, the EPA has a lot of issues with fracking which they would like to limit, if not shut down altogether.
We are being led by Luddites!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The EPA must be using crystal ball technology to make its climate forecasts which is not available to the rest of us.

To encourage the adoption of the new emissions rules, I urge the EPA to shut down the coal-fired generating plants which serve Washington, DC first and set an example for the rest of the country to follow.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a consolation prize I hope conservatives will enjoy the ~1 year of extra life expectancy (averaged across the US) that will accompany replacing coal with the nation's current mix of (significantly cleaner) non-coal power.

A spoonful of sugar?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why will we live longer if we are freezing to death without electricity and our food goes bad because our refrigerators have no power?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hope you enjoy shivering in the dark during the Burning Times. Enjoy!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
And I hope you live an extra year too, Dworkin!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
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