EPA puts incendiary CO2 proposal for new plants out for comment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a move promised on March 27, in the April 13 Federal Register officially proposed new source performance standards for emissions of CO2 for new affected fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating units (EGUs).

“The EPA is proposing these requirements because CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG) and fossil fuel fired power plants are the country’s largest stationary source emitters of GHGs,” the notice said. “The EPA in 2009 found that by causing or contributing to climate change, GHGs endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations. The proposed requirements, which are strictly limited to new sources, would require new fossil fuel-fired EGUs greater than 25 megawatt electric (MWe) to meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (lb CO2/MWh), based on the performance of widely used natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) technology.”

Opposition to the March 27 EPA initial announcement of these proposed rules was voiced swiftly by industry and by top Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Those Republican committee leaders said in a statement that the proposal would add to the “tangle of regulatory red tape” already imposed by other new rules affecting electric utilities, effectively forming a “backdoor energy tax” on families and businesses.

National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said March 27 that this proposal is a “poorly disguised cap-and-tax scheme that represents energy and economic policy at its worst.”

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity President and CEO Steve Miller said March 27 this rule will make it impossible to build any new coal-fueled power plants.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Glenn English said March 27 that because commercially viable carbon capture and storage technology is still years away, this rule will have the practical effect of outlawing coal as a fuel source for the next generation of power plants.

“Because of the economics of the energy sector, the EPA and others project that NGCC will be the predominant choice for new fossil fuel fired generation even absent this rule,” EPA said in the April 13 notice. “In its base case analysis, the EPA does not project any new coal-fired EGUs without CCS to be built in the absence of this proposal through 2030. New coal-fired or pet coke-fired units could meet the standard either by employing carbon capture and storage (CCS) of approximately 50% of the CO2 in the exhaust gas at startup, or through later application of more effective CCS to meet the standard on average over a 30-year period. The 30-year averaging option could also provide flexibility for owners and operators of coal or pet coke units implementing CCS at the outset of the unit’s operation that were designed and operated to emit at less than 1,000 lb CO2/MWh to address startup concerns or short term interruptions in their ability to sequester captured carbon dioxide.”

EPA said it is not proposing standards of performance for existing EGUs where CO2 emissions increase as a result of installation of pollution controls for conventional pollutants, or for proposed EGUs, which are referred to as transitional sources, that have acquired a complete preconstruction permit by the time of this proposal and that commence construction within 12 months of this proposal. Power4Georgians, which is developing the coal-fired Plant Washington project in Georgia, said recently it is aware of that one-year deadline and is aiming to start construction by then.

Comments on the EPA CO2 proposal will be taken until June 12. The EPA said it will hold public hearings on this proposal, with the dates, times and locations to be announced separately.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.