EPA to roll back Obama-era re­stric­tions on green­house gas emis­sions.

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By James Os­borne STAFF WRITER james.os­[email protected] twit­ter.com/os­borneja

WASH­ING­TON — The EPA is rolling back re­stric­tions on green­house gas emis­sions from new coal plants, the lat­est in a se­ries of moves by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to aid an ail­ing U.S. coal sec­tor.

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Act­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­drew Wheeler said Thurs­day an Obama-era re­quire­ment that new coal plants adopt car­bon cap­ture tech­nol­ogy would be re­placed by a new stan­dard that al­lows new and more ef­fi­cient plants to op­er­ate with­out those sys­tems in place.

The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion “knew the new tech­nol­ogy was not ad­e­quately demon­strated,” he said Thurs­day at a news con­fer­ence at EPA head­quar­ters. “We are re­scind­ing un­fair bur­dens on Amer­ica’s en­ergy providers. This pro­posal would fur­ther the his­toric growth in en­ergy pro­duc­tion un­der Pres­i­dent Trump.”

Un­der a rule adopted by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2015, new coal-fired plants were only al­lowed to emit 1,400 pounds of car­bon diox­ide per megawatthour of elec­tric­ity pro­duced, which at cur­rent ef­fi­ciency lev­els of coal-pow­ered tur­bines would have re­quired plants to adopt car­bon cap­ture.

The new stan­dard pro­posed by Wheeler would al­low up 1,900 pounds of car­bon diox­ide from large plants and 2,000 pounds of car­bon diox­ide from small plants.

Michelle Blood­worth, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Coali­tion for Clean Coal Elec­tric­ity, who was present at the an­nounce­ment, said she had not re­viewed the pro­posal but it ap­peared to “make it vi­able for new coal plants to be an op­tion in the United States.”

She said car­bon cap­ture “was promis­ing, but it should not be the ba­sis for set­ting a stan­dard. We feel like it makes sense to re­place some of th­ese re­tir­ing coal plants with high-ef­fi­ciency, lowe­mis­sions coal plants.”

But many in Wash­ing­ton and the power sec­tor re­main skep­ti­cal that the changes by EPA will re­duce costs enough to for coal plants to com­pete with gas plants and wind farms.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port this week from the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­creas­ing de­mand for cleaner elec­tric­ity from nat­u­ral gas and re­new­ables means the United States will likely burn through only 691 mil­lion short tons of coal this year — the low­est level since 1979 and a 39 per­cent drop from coal’s 2007 peak.

“While the roll­back would make it eas­ier to build a new plant, gen­er­at­ing com­pa­nies still won’t build them,” Andy Roberts, a re­search di­rec­tor at Wood Macken­zie, said in an email. “The roll­back of car­bon diox­ide re­stric­tions for new coal power plants is like shut­ting the barn door af­ter the horse has bolted. Util­i­ties have al­ready made their fu­ture plans.”

The an­nounce­ment the lat­est in a se­ries of moves by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to ex­pand U.S. fos­sil fuel pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing oil and nat­u­ral gas, while rolling back the cli­mate change poli­cies of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

It comes as world lead­ers are meet­ing in Poland to ne­go­ti­ate next steps fol­low­ing the land­mark 2015 agree­ment on cli­mate change in Paris, a pact that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said last year he would re­move the United States from.

“Trump’s pro­posal is an act of flail­ing, die-hard cli­mate de­nial,” said Clare Lake­wood, a se­nior at­tor­ney at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity. “In­stead of this back­ward-look­ing pos­tur­ing, the gov­ern­ment should speed the tran­si­tion to a clean en­ergy fu­ture.”

But within Amer­i­can in­dus­try, the an­nounce­ment drew at least some ap­plause.

Ross Eisen­berg, a vice pres­i­dent with the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers, called the new rule a “more re­al­is­tic ap­proach to reg­u­lat­ing green­house gas emis­sions.”

“The pre­vi­ous rule was a de facto ban on new coal-fired power plants, threat­en­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers’ long-term ac­cess to an ‘all of the above’ en­ergy strat­egy,” he said in a state­ment.

Jim Cole / As­so­ci­ated Press

A plume of steam bil­lows from the coal-fired Mer­ri­mack Sta­tion in Bow, N.H., in 2015. The EPA says rolling back Obama-era re­stric­tions “would fur­ther the his­toric growth” un­der Pres­i­dent Trump.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.