In a move that could effectively end construction of any new conventional coal-fired power generation in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today has proposed the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.
“Today we're taking a common sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies–in the health and economic threats of a changing climate continued to grow.”
The average US coal plant today emits about 2249 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of power produced. The new EPA rules will limit those emissions to 1000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour or at about the level of a modern natural gas plant.
“This is an important common sense step towards tackling the ongoing threat of climate change,” said Jackson. “We build on where the industry is going and lock that trend in, which we believe is an important signal for investors.”
The initial impact of the emissions rule on utilities is expected to initially be negligible; with natural gas prices at 10 year lows most utilities are shutting down coal plants, not building new ones. By the end of 2011 the share of electrical power generation from coal-fired plants dropped below 40 percent, the lowest share since 1978 according to the Energy Information Administration.
Jackson said that the EPA has no plans to set rules on existing plants, and the new limit will apply only to the construction of new power plants. Fifteen plants with pending instruction permits are exempt from the proposed rule.
Joe Mendelson, climate policy director for the National Wildlife Federation characterized the new EPA rule as a “milestone in the fight to rein in climate change. The EPA is taking a big step toward protecting the world our children will inherit.”
- New EPA Rules Will Limit CO2 Emissions from Power Plants (e360.yale.edu)
- EPA hits power plant emissions (politico.com)
- The top five things you need to know about EPA's new carbon rule (grist.org)