EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Wednesday the agency is looking for a path forward for coal.
U.S. Senate
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Wednesday the agency is looking for a path forward for coal.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As EPA administrator Gina McCarthy continued to make the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday with the agency’s new budget proposal, she once again she found herself answering questions about new emission standards for coal-fired power plants.

McCarthy was before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee when Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) asked about coal-fired power plants in his state.

“Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is not commercially viable,” Hoeven said. “So how are we going to build any new coal plants even with the latest technology and CCS with your latest proposed rules?”

McCarthy said told Hoeven the EPA believes CCS is “technically feasible.”

But the Republican senator shot back: “I did not say technically feasible. I said commercially viable.”

McCarthy answered that “technically feasible” is the standard under the law.

“Nobody is indicating that CCS isn’t adding cost. The challenge we have here is that we need to provide a path forward for coal in a future that we know will be carbon constrained,” McCarthy said.

Those in the coal industry and with electric utilities have said new rules proposed last year would make the future construction of coal-fired plants nearly impossible.

When the rules were announced last September the EPA called it “a first milestone” in President Obama’s carbon pollution standards.

The proposal limits new coal-fired power plants to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide (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.

McCarthy said Wednesday the EPA has already noticed investment in “new coal and clean coal.”

“We’re hoping to continue to provide an emphasis for that,”

Hoeven said there’s no market for the captured product, and which means there will be no investment. Other industry analysts have said carbon capture is an unproven technology that currently has no commercial value.

Hoeven told McCarthy he’s concerned about new emission rules expected soon on existing coal-fire plants.

“You’ve got to show us that whatever rule you bring out is commercially viable and is not going to shut down plants, and what the cost to consumers and small businesses across this country is going to be,” the senator said. “That it is something that is truly achievable, not technically achievable. It has to be commercially viable.”

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Comments

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  • Al

    What you anti-coal Folks are missing is and you can look this up it takes twice the amount of natural gas to get the same amount of BTU's as coal do you really believe that once they get plants switched to gas that you will not see the price of gas double or triple in price which in turn is going to make your electric bill double or triple if not higher than that.

  • John

    Right On, Tim C....I agree with everything you wrote, which is exactly the truth of the matter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us...

  • Tim C

    Where's Manchin and Rahall on this? They are strangely quiet don't you think? Truth is, they support this crazy EPA agenda. They just say they don't. For all you people who think the dems are for the working man, here ya go. An entire industry under fire with its final destruction the main goal. That means jobs...for you incredibly stupid people who can't seem to figure that out. "Technically feasible" they say, well one well known power company tried to implement a carbon capture project at one of their coal fired plants and guess what???? It wasn't " technically feasible". If you could manage to capture all that carbon underground...where are the studies showing that effect on the environment? The plants are equipt with scrubbers and capture 98.5% of the pollutants now. The EPA wants that other percent and a half so bad they will destroy an entire industry and economy to get it! Now, you have the truth....now it's time to see what you do with it! Continue to support the dems and you will get to see the destruction of the greatest economic engine ever created that allows us to live a comfortable life with modern convienences and give our children a better life. If the Democratic Party had kooks like this Gina McCarthy woman in early 20th century we would still be riding horses and reading by oil lamps.....well maybe we wouldn't have the oil lamps and the flatulence from all those extra horses would be too much. Wake up stupid people.....an get educated! You children's very lives depend on it.

  • WV Man

    Feminine?

  • Aaron

    Jeff below cited Topix to state that China is building the worlds largest renewable energy source but what he fails to mention is that as percentage of energy consumption, China at 6% from renewable ranks below the United States, which acquires 12% of it's Energy from renewable sources.

    It's all about perspective.

    The reason I posted this here is because it got buried deep in the replies below and I felt this was relevant information.

    • The bookman

      Jeff has proven himself irrelevant as he is trying to equate Chinese pollution, particulates that create immediate breathing difficulties, to EPA defined pollution, CO2, a naturally occurring ingredient in ambient air. The Chinese are ramping up coal production to meet demand, not ratcheting down, and Jeff knows it. As wirerowe accurately stated earlier, the Chinese could not care less about CO2. It is the particulates that they are concerned about, and that is only because you can see it. Coal's value as an energy commodity will only increase in the next 30-40 years. Jeff most certainly knows this and it is incumbent upon all of us to prepare for the decline of coal 3 decades from now. But to regulate coal out of our US energy equation only subsidizes the Chinese economy in their quest for cheap energy.

  • Aaron

    Perhaps Senator Hoeven needs to do is remind his fellow Senators that in addition to writing the laws, they also fund EPA. If he believes they are out of line, he should lead the effort to reign them in.

    • Jim

      You mean "rein them in," as one controls a horse by pulling on its reins. "Reign in" makes no sense and is a pet grammatical peeve of mine.

      • Aaron

        Yeah, whatever man. If that's all you've got, perhaps you should consider a career as an English teacher and leave the conversation to the adults.

      • thornton

        Irregardless......I understood Aaron's meaning and would reckon that most readers did as well.

  • Shadow

    No matter how much Carbon we catch, there is always a volcano waiting in the wings to show us that our efforts are in vain. We need the EPA to come out of the clouds and get real.

  • John of Wayne

    No doubt, trying to find a path for the advancement of coal so that they can throw a roadblock across it.

  • cutty77

    I think having these meetings with is a waste of time. The EPA is not going to change anything for anybody..

    • wvman75

      There is a way. They're all political appointees.

  • Sally32

    Kudos, Sen. John Hoeven, kudos!!!

  • thornton

    Someone needs to buy Ms. Gina a plane ticket to China for a fact realization tour.

    • John of Wayne

      Let's make it a one-way ticket.

    • Wirerowe

      And when Ms. Gena gets back she needs to visit poor and elderly on fixed incomes all across America to see how the misguided policies of the EPA are raising the costs of energy for those who can least afford it. If the government wants to do something for the lower income groups try adopting policies that don't increase the cost of energy without any measurable or real benefits

      • Jeff

        Really? You're blaming the EPA for high energy costs? I guess it's easy to parrot simple points when the issues are complex. Do some real reading. You can start by looking at the WV PSC recent rulings and figure how those decisions are going to affect energy prices and people on fixed incomes.

        • Wirerowe

          Who ultimately pays for scrubber, precipitators, regulations that increase the cost of developing and utilizing energy? Residential and industrial users. If you have two viable commercially scalable a sources of electricity, natural gas and coal, and for minimal benefits you close off the use of one who is going to pay for it? Residential and industrial users. You need to read something that gives you and understanding of supply and demand. Your understanding of economic principles and realities is ver naive

      • So Done

        This is my concern as well...the continued raising cost of energy. My parents are older and are now living on a fixed income. These government made-up agencies are getting ridiculous with their power trips. They do nothing more than tread on the finances of the very ones who have fought and paid into this country. It's sickening and disturbing. This fine government of ours are putting all their eggs into one basket, and guess who will pay the price when that basket drops???

        • Ugh

          I'm with you, So Done.... who's going to clean that basket mess up? The ones who support and back this crazy drivel will be the exact ones that RUN far, far away all while saying "I didn't support that, I didn't agree with that, I didn't intend for that........" Ugh!

    • Jeff

      Exactly! Send them all over to See how China is closing coal mines and building the world's largest renewable energy system. Great idea!

      • Aaron

        You are aware that in "building the world's largest renewable energy system" China is still getting ONLY 7% of their energy from renewable energy whereas the United States acquires 12% of electric generation in renewable energy sources.

        Put in perspective, China IS NOT leading the world.

      • Shadow

        India is importing more coal and no one mentioned her and she is the second most populous country in the world. I wonder if they have an equivalent to the EPA?

      • thornton

        Well...Jeff....hopefully she takes a personal smog filter with her on her trip to China. Bottled water would be a given.

        The Internet enables anyone to find any information to support any topic, or topix.
        Failure to properly sift that information is where many stumble.

        I expect that the Chinese are growing to understand the value of blunting criticism as more notice is made of their issues re pollution of all types and measures. Furthering that, a "calling out of their cities" note for the world's consumption would be a good first step and, of course, it would mean nothing.
        China, being China, marches to it's own drummer of self-interest. My guess is that there is no corresponding, not figurehead, Ms. Gina in China.

        I expect that it would be very interesting to see the China that is hidden behind the public face....much like a Halloween false face perhaps. I also expect their leaders will never permit that honest look. Some folks may be applying too much of America to China, relative to believing public news flashes.

        As to coastline worries and displaced, or worse, people......I'm afraid that might be viewed as......fortuitous, by the Chinese powers that be..

      • Wirerowe

        China is closing poewer plants because of real concerns about real pollution such as particulate matter. We have been doing this for years. You can bet they would not close one coal mine because of Co2.

        • Hillboy

          Yes, the Chinese currently emit more CO2 than any other country but they may also be the most proactive in trying to change it. They have a lot at risk and their government acknowledges that they are already experiencing the effects of climate change. Their coastline is the most densely populated region in the world. Any substantial rise in sea level would displace tens of millions of people. They are now the biggest producer and installer of wind turbines and solar panels in the world. The US has pretty much ceded world leadership on renewables to China.

          • wvman75

            Anybody who thinks the Chinese are going to shoot themselves in the foot economically is living in la la land.

          • Wirerowe

            My percentages were from the eia,s table of sources of total energy production and not just power plants. But maybe I misread.my statement that China wasn't concerned about co2 at all is like you say over the top. But I donot believe that it is a major consideration for them. There concern is unequivocable real and present danger of unhealthy dirty air. We will disagree on this point as well but I believe we wean ourselves off of fossils fuels primarily because they will run out, which I don' t believe will be the case in the foreseeable future rather than because they are green. I see abaolutely no reason for turning away from coal fired plants here when they generate only 4 to 5 percent of the world's CO 2 emissions. All of the above energy policy but if someone wants to pick on coal I reserve the right to pick on wind and solar.

          • Hillboy

            I wasn't trying to say that it would be easy weening ourselves off of fossil fuel---I was merely responding to your assertion that the Chinese are unconcerned about CO2. I don't think that is true at this point in time.

            I don't disagree that renewables are not commercial scale. I don't think we'll be seeing commercial solar power plants replacing fossil fuel power plants. I think there is a lot more potential for decentralized renewables to make a contribution. There are a lot of south-facing rooftops going to waste in this country. The current administration seems to favor natural gas, which emits less carbon than coal but probably isn't going to get us where we need to be.

            I'm not seeing the 7% and 9% figures. The EIA graph I see shows 12% and 16%. Is the report you're looking at global or US?

          • Wirerowe

            Hillboy president Obama energy information administration recently came out with their 2014 energy outlook. Renewables account for roughly 7% of energy production in the US . In 2040 they project that renewables will account for 9 %. Hydro is significant now but wind and solar wii grow but they are not commercially scale. In 2040 fossils will account for roughly the same percentage. Economics will always trump

        • Jeff

          You're wrong. They're closing 1725 small mines and consolidating.

          http://www.chinatopix.com/articles/1687/20140408/china-environment-coal-plant-close-down.htm

          Yes, coal will increase in the short term, but renewables are set to way outpace fossils and provide a smooth transition.

          • The bookman

            China has a pollution problem, that's for sure. But they have cheap energy needs that must be met, and, unlike this EPA, have realized that a true all of the above energy strategy includes coal and to set unrealistic emissions standards is not good for China. I'm all for renewables, clean water, pure air, trees , etc. It's not all or none, it's all of the above.

          • Jeff

            Bookman, it sounds like you are really informed. So you would already know, that before this announcement, China has called out it's cities for not meeting pollution standards from last year. Then the announcement of investing in thorium plants. Now the closure of mines. Think it could be related? And yes, closing these mines is definitely part of the plan to make coal much less significant and in turn reducing pollution.

          • The bookman

            Jeff,

            For such a smart guy, you don't comprehend well or make it up as you go. Wires statement was to a point accurate. China is closing inefficient mines in favor of higher producing ones. They aren't reducing their carbon footprint. And have no plans to in the near future. I'd post the link, but you are the master at google, right?

          • Jeff

            Wow, I know it's hard to use google. Here you go:

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=China+to+close+coal+mines

            You should think about changing your name.

          • 1smartone

            Did you just quote Topix???

        • Wirerowe

          Sorry closing coal mines

  • Wirerowe

    She knows very well that the technology is not or never will be commercially viable. You can capture as little or as much carbon as you want and you cannot practically dispose of it or sell it. The technology will never be viable in the real world. she could care less.