EPA sets emission standards for new combined cycle plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a long-awaited revised proposal for Clean Air Act standards to curb carbon pollution from new power plants. The rule sets separate standards for new gas-fired and coal-fired plants. It would require future coal-fired plants to limit emissions of carbon dioxide to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour (MWh).

(New coal plants would likely need to implement CCS technology)

The average U.S. coal-fired plant currently emits nearly 1,800 pounds per MWh. Large combined cycle natural gas plants producing at least 850 MW of electricity would be limited to 1,000 pounds per MWh, while smaller plants could emit up to 1,100 pounds per MWh. The new proposal replaces an earlier standard issued in 2012 that would have required all types of facilities to limit emissions to 1,000 pounds per MWh (subscription).

New coal plants would likely need to implement carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, under the rule set to be finalized next year. That rule will trigger the drafting of standards for existing sources under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Much of the opposition surrounding the rule, which is set for proposal in June 2014, is likely aimed at limits for these existing coal and natural-gas fired plants, which vary in age.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “We have proven time after time that setting fair Clean Air Act standards to protect public health does not cause the sky to fall.” She went on to say that the proposal, “rather than killing future coal, actually sets out a certain pathway forward for coal to continue to be part of a diverse mix in this country.”