The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled its rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Some politicians and the coal industry have criticized the rules, saying they amount to a ban on new coal-fired plants.
The plan sets an emissions limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for large natural gas plants, and 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour for coal and smaller natural gas plants.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says climate change caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide poses numerous public health challenges—everything from poor air quality to an increase in the number of disease-spreading mosquitoes and ticks. She said these rules for new power plants are necessary, and won’t have the dire economic consequences industry groups predict
“We have proven time after time that setting fair, Clean Air Act standards to protect public health does not cause the sky to fall,” McCarthy said. “The economy does not crumble.”
Technologies like carbon capture and sequestration will help new coal plants comply with the standard; they’re available, but are still very expensive.
Mississippi Power's Kemper County energy facility near DeKalb, Miss., seen under construction last year. Carbon dioxide will be captured from this plant and used to stimulate production of oil from existing wells.
Credit Rogelio V. Solis / AP
The gasifier facility, still under construction last year at the energy plant. Under the EPA's proposed rules, new plants that run on coal would have to find ways to emit less than half the carbon dioxide current coal plants emit.
The Environmental Protection Agency's second stab at a proposal to set the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants would make it impossible for companies to build the kind of coal-fired plants that have been the country's biggest source of electricity for decades.
Under the proposal, released Friday, any new plant that runs on coal would be permitted to emit only about half as much carbon dioxide as an average coal plant puts into the air today.
The Speaker of the Kentucky House and a bipartisan group of 50 House members have penned a letter to President Obama, expressing their concern over what they call the administration’s “unfair attack on coal.”
The letter—written by House Speaker Greg Stumbo—says the lawmakers are concerned about the President’s recent speeches about further limits to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The letter says coal in Kentucky “is a way of life”, and that coal had a $10 billion economic impact in the state in 2010.
The lawmakers write that “promising initiatives that should satisfy both sides of the climate debate are essentially left in the research lab, while the environmental impact of other major energy sources is minimized by comparison.”
Environmental advocates, on the other hand, want the President to take a tougher stance on coal, and hope the E.P.A will soon enforce tough new carbon pollution limits on coal plants.
The pro-coal letter was signed by 50 Kentucky House members, including Owensboro Democrats Tommy Thompson and Jim Glenn, Butler County Republican C.B. Embry, and Bowling Green Republican Jim DeCesare.
Mammoth Cave National Park is making use of some new propane-fueled vehicles, thanks to a partnership between the National Park Service and the Department of Energy's Clean Cities Program. The vehicles are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the park.