Obama administration makes its first strike on coal emissions

The EPA today will propose strict CO2 standards for new power plants

Published September 20, 2013 1:24PM (EDT)


In the first of a series of measures under President Obama's climate plan, the EPA today will propose tough emissions standards for new coal-fired power plants. The goal is to begin to move toward a cleaner, healthier and more stable environment, a senior administration official told Salon. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy will announce the proposed regulations at the National Press Club.

The average coal plant currently emits about 1,800 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere each hour. The new regulations will limit new plants to 1,100 pounds, and natural gas-fired plants to 1,000. In order to meet those standards, they will need to install expensive carbon-capture technology -- leading industry lobbyists to accuse the administration of effectively destroying coal's future in the U.S. It's never before been installed by a commercial coal plant.

The administration, however, insists that the industry is overreacting -- just as it does every time new regulations are proposed. They're expecting technology to adapt and spark innovation, eventually lowering costs. Coal, McCarthy said Wednesday, "will continue to represent a significant source of energy for decades to come.”

The most immediate effect will be felt by two coal plants that are currently under construction, and three others that are planned. Regulations on existing plants, which are expected to be rolled out next year, will probably have more of an impact on the industry, as well as on its contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions.

The rules are a slightly relaxed version of regulations first proposed in April 2012. Republicans and industry officials are already planning to go on the offensive. “It’s a devastating blow to our state, and we’re going to fight it in every way we can,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader from coal-heavy Kentucky, said before even seeing the proposal.

The League of Conservation Voters praised the announcement in a statement, saying, "Carbon pollution is already increasing rates of asthma attacks and extreme weather like floods, heat waves, and droughts nationwide. Any attempts by Congress to block implementation of these limits would go against the majority of Americans who support these common sense steps and would only benefit the country’s biggest polluters.”

After the announcement is made, the proposal will be open for a 60-day period of public comment.

By Lindsay Abrams

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Coal Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse-gas Emissions Natural Gas Obama Administration