WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal EPA released its proposal Friday to cut carbon pollution from new power plants. Opponents quickly responded saying the proposed rules would make it almost impossible to build any future coal-fired plants.
The EPA called its plan a first milestone in President Barack Obama’s “Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards.”
“Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”
The proposal limits new coal-fired power plants to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. There’s also an option to average emissions over multiple years. Natural gas-fired power plants would face a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.
Appalachian Power Company Director of Communications Jeri Matheney told MetroNews Friday the new proposal would in effect eliminate any new coal-fired plants.
“This rule effectively eliminates coal as an option for a new plant,” Matheney said.
A fellow subsidiary with Appalachian Power under American Electric Power, Southwestern Electric Power Company, just finished building the new Turk Power Plant in Arkansas. The company said it used the latest technology and the operation will emit 1,800 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, significantly more than the new standard of 1,100 per megawatt-hour.
The EPA said Friday it believes new coal-fired power plants can be constructed in the future. It predicts the cost for the carbon capture or carbon sequestration technology will eventually go down.
“We’re confident that coal plants of the future will be able to be built with this technology,” an EPA acting assistant administrator said in a conference call with reporters.
EPA said it’s nowhere near ready to talk about new emission guidelines for existing plans although a proposal is due out next summer.
The West Virginia Coal Association said in released statement the proposed rules “will hurt West Virginia jobs, our economy and may result in increased electric costs for consumers across this country.”
“If you can’t build new coal-fired power plants or expand the ones we have, EPA’s directly taking West Virginia coal jobs, ” the coal association continued. “What makes it worse is that the federal government has refused to determine the economic impact of these rules before they are promulgated! This negative attack is further magnified by efforts to reduce the fossil fuel and carbon control and sequestration budgets in the Department of Energy, which if anything, need to be maintained and increased!”
But the EPA said the rules will make sure new power plants are built with clean technology and investments in clean energy are already taking place. The EPA said the power plants of the future will use “cleaner energy technologies — such as efficient natural gas, advanced coal technology, nuclear power, and renewable energy like wind and solar.”
West Virginia First District Congressman David McKinley said Friday on MetroNews Talkline the EPA was getting ahead of itself.
“We just simply got to get the EPA under control,” McKinley said. “They got to just slow down and take a breather and look at what they’re doing to the economy.”
McKinley said the changes would ultimately mean higher utility bills.
U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller described the new plan as “tough requirements.” He said it would cause for a push “toward clean coal technologies that have great potential but are not yet deployed at full-scale, and are difficult to finance.”
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said Friday the new proposals prove the Obama administration is continuing its war against coal.
“Never before has the federal government forced an industry to do something that is technologically impossible. Forcing coal to meet the same emissions standards as gas when experts know that the required technology is not operational on a commercial scale makes absolutely no sense and will have devastating impacts to the coal industry and our economy,” Manchin said.
The senator also predicted jobs would be lost and electric prices would significantly increase.
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito said the new rules show the Obama administration “doesn’t care about the hard working men and women who earn their living in the coal industry, doesn’t care about providing reliable and affordable energy to power the national economy for years to come, and doesn’t care about harming the very fabric of communities across our state.”
West Virginia Third District Congressman Nick Rahall called the EPA’s plan a scheme to prevent construction of coal plants.
“I am dead-set against the EPA and their scheme to issue emissions standards that would make it next to impossible for new coal-fired power plants to be constructed. In mandating that new power plants utilize technology that is not even commercially available, let alone affordable, the Agency is preventing abundant American coal from meeting America’s future energy needs. The result of this wrong-headed policy would be higher energy bills for families and businesses, reduced power reliability and energy independence for our nation, and lost jobs for our coal miners,” Rahall said in a prepared statement.
The EPA has started a 60-day comment period on its proposal and will eventually have a public hearing.