No new coal plants un­der draft EPA rules

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Tues­day pro­posed green­house­gas reg­u­la­tions that ef­fec­tively would pro­hibit the con­struc­tion of new coal­fired power plants.

The rules, re­leased in draft form and ex­pected to be fi­nal­ized later this year, would re­quire new coal fa­cil­i­ties to use ex­pen­sive car­bon-cap­ture tech­nol­ogy, which is still be­ing de­vel­oped and is not yet fi­nan­cially vi­able.

The EPA is not lim­it­ing emis­sions from ex­ist­ing coal plants, which pro­vide about 45 per­cent of the na­tion’s electricity, or those ex­pected to break ground within the next 12 months.

De­spite those ex­emp­tions, some en­ergy an­a­lysts are warn­ing that the agency’s ac­tions could re­sult in higher electricity rates in com­ing years. Many in the in­dus­try also see the pro­posal as an­other ex­am­ple of what they say is the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s un­re­lent­ing war on fos­sil fu­els, con­trary to the pres­i­dent’s fre­quent claims to have an “all-of-the­above” en­ergy strat­egy.

“Pres­i­dent Obama promised to bank­rupt coal-pow­ered electricity in the United States, and this lat­est rule ... makes good on that prom­ise,” said Thomas J. Pyle, pres­i­dent of the In­sti­tute for En­ergy Re­search. “If the EPA’S new rules are fi­nal­ized, en­tire in­dus­tries across the United States will be pushed out of busi­ness, and jobs with them. [The rule] sat­is­fies the ide­o­log­i­cal de­mands of en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­trem­ists who want to de­stroy tra­di­tional en­ergy in Amer­ica.”

In ad­di­tion to its pro­posed lim­its on coal, the agency also is mulling sweep­ing new reg­u­la­tions on the nat­u­ral-gas in­dus­try. Next month, the EPA will re­lease pro­posed guide­lines for air emis­sions from drilling sites and later this year will un­veil a widely an­tic­i­pated re­port on pur­ported links be­tween hy­draulic frac­tur­ing, or frack­ing, and water con­tam­i­na­tion.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment, a key con­stituency in Mr. Obama’s re-elec­tion ef­fort, has en­thu­si­as­ti­cally backed all of those new rules and has pushed for even harsher crack­downs. Its pro­po­nents view Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment as a small, yet sig­nif­i­cant, step in the right di­rec­tion.

“These first-ever car­bon pol­lu­tion stan­dards for new power plants mean that busi­ness as usual for the na­tion’s big­gest sources of car­bon pol­lu­tion, dirty coal-burn­ing util­i­ties, is over,” said Michael Brune, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sierra Club.

Repub­li­cans in Congress see it much dif­fer­ently and wasted lit­tle time Tues­day in blast­ing the rules and paint­ing them as a backdoor way for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to achieve en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists’ aims with­out demo­cratic decision-mak­ing.

It first tried to tackle fos­sil-fuel emis­sions with the “cap-and-trade” leg­is­la­tion, which stalled in Congress. Some con­ser­va­tive and coal- and oil-state Democrats, along with vir­tu­ally all Repub­li­cans, op­posed the mea­sure. Un­able to mus­cle cap-and-trade through Congress, the EPA has sim­ply by­passed law­mak­ers, said Rep. Fred Up­ton, Michi­gan Re­pub­li­can and chair­man of the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

“EPA con­tin­ues to over­step its au­thor­ity and ram through a se­ries of over­reach­ing reg­u­la­tions in its at­tack on Amer­ica’s power sec­tor,” Mr. Up­ton said in a state­ment. “Pres­i­dent Obama likes to say he is for ‘all of the above’ Amer­i­can en­ergy, but his poli­cies prove oth­er­wise.”

The EPA re­quire­ments would force coal-fired plants to meet the stan­dard of “1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatthour,” a thresh­old that could be met only with un­avail­able car­bon-cap­ture tech­nol­ogy. But the agency said its rules ac­tu­ally will change lit­tle be­cause coalpow­ered plants al­ready are on their way out.

“Be­cause of the eco­nom­ics of the en­ergy sec­tor, the EPA and oth­ers project [nat­u­ral gas] will be the pre­dom­i­nant choice for new fos­sil-fuel-fired gen­er­a­tion even ab­sent this rule,” reads a por­tion of the pro­posed reg­u­la­tion.

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