McCarthy answers questions on role of CCS, nuclear in CO2 plan

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy said Feb. 25 that her organization understands the important role of nuclear energy in baseload generation and said that the proposed Clean Power Plan is not too reliant on carbon capture and storage (CCS) at coal plants.

McCarthy on Feb. 25 appeared before two House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittees to testify about the Obama Administration’s FY 2016 budget proposal for EPA. But most questions revolved around EPA’s proposal under Section 111(d) to have states draft plans to cut CO2 by 30% by 2030 from existing power plants.

“Nuclear power is zero carbon and it is an important part of the baseload for many states,” McCarthy said in response to a question from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) who is the ranking member on the House committee.

Rush said he wanted to ensure that nuclear power is “fully credited” in the EPA CO2 plan because it is important for states like Illinois.

Meanwhile an Illinois Republican, Rep. John Shimkus, said that the general consensus is that much coal-fired capacity will close as a result of the CO2 plan, and that across the country, nuclear power is also stressed. Shimkus pointed to recent efforts in the Illinois legislatture to support that state’s embattled nuclear plants. McCarthy said that EPA does realize the importance of preserving existing nuclear units to meeting U.S. climate goals.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) said that CCS has not been commercially proven and that EPA should not count on it as a big factor for carbon reduction.

EPA had stated that the technology had been “adequately demonstrated,” Murphy said. However, Murphy noted that there are no commercially viable large scale examples of CCS technology. One of the major projects cited in EPA’s rule is the Kemper, Miss., coal plant of Mississippi Power, which McCarthy acknowledged is over budget and unfinished. She also acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently pulled the plug on its long-touted Future Gen 2.0 project in Illinois.

“It appears that all the projects … that are cited by the EPA, they haven’t been completed, some haven’t been started, one’s been discontinued, one isn’t even in this country, and none of them are large-scale,” Murphy said.

McCarthy said she thinks that coal will still be 30% of the power portfolio in 2030. McCarthy also expressed optimism that “investment will not be stranded” when it comes to environmental upgrades to help coal-fired generation meet existing pollutant standards.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.