US proposes first limits on carbon emissions by utilities

27 March 2012 19:01  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday proposed the first US restrictions on carbon emissions by electric power plants, saying the limits are needed to avert the adverse health and economic consequences of global warming.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said that the proposed rule limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by power plants would allow 1,000 lbs of carbon releases for every megawatt of electric power generated.

Jackson noted that the proposed rule limiting carbon emissions by power plants would apply only to new facilities.  It will not affect existing power plants or any planned facilities that will begin construction in the next 12 months.

The standard will apply to both coal-fired power plants and those fuelled by natural gas.

Jackson said that new planned power generating plants that rely on natural gas likely would meet the proposed emissions limit without any additional costs.

But future coal-fired power plants would have to employ carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology in order to meet the EPA’s standard, she indicated.

Commercial-scale CCS is not yet available, but Jackson said that "every model we have seen projects that CCS will be commercially available within the next ten years".

Coal-fired power facilities built in the future would have a 30-year window in which to reach an average of 1,000 pounds of carbon emissions per megawatt hour during that period.

Jackson said the EPA did not yet have a projected date for a final rule. 

The proposed rule is open to a 60-day comment period, and Jackson said that the EPA would hold further meetings with stakeholders and public hearings around the country before writing a final rule.

She said that the EPA was moving forward with its GHG limiting rules because “climate change affects every aspect of our lives, all aspects of our economy from agriculture to tourism”.

“It is clear that we must take action, and this is an important common sense step to address the real threat of climate change,” she said.

But the proposed carbon limits rule for power plants was likely to encounter resistance from both the US coal industry and many in Congress, where the Obama administration’s efforts to legislate GHG limits were unsuccessful and are still strongly opposed.

Congressman Ed Whitfield (Republican-Kentucky) said on Tuesday that the EPA’s proposed limit on carbon emissions by power plants is yet another element of the administration’s “war on coal”.

Whitfield, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said that “President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson are circumventing the will of Congress and the American people by moving forward with a regulation that threatens our most abundant, reliable and affordable domestic electricity source, coal”.

Coal-fired power plants account for just under half of US electricity. Whitfield’s home state of Kentucky is a major supplier of coal to the US power sector and other industries.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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