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September 21, 2013
EPA Proposes Limits for Power Plant Emissions
    by Robert Kropp

The standards, which will limit emissions by new power plants, are praised by investors and corporations, and assailed by the Senate Minority Leader and the Chamber of Commerce.

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pro posed carbon pollution standards for new power plants, which if enacted will be the first federal regulation limiting the amounts of carbon pollution that power plants can emit. The proposed standards, which include a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour for new coal-fired power plants, “will ensure that new power plants are built with available clean technology to limit carbon pollution,” EPA stated.

The new standards were issued in response to a memora ndum from President Obama to the agency in June, directing the agency “to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.” Standards for existing power plants are expected to be proposed next year.

In a speech delivered at Georgetown University in June, Obama said, “Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.”

“By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”

Power plants are the largest concentrated source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US, and the proposed standards were greeted with letters of approval by investors and companies alike. A group of 47 institutional investors with over $900 billion in combined assets under management wrote to Obama, stating, “these will be economically beneficial, technology and innovation driving regulations.”

“The need for such standards is urgent,” the investor letter continued. “While Congressional action may be preferable to Clean Air Act regulations, such action has not been forthcoming and the urgency of the growing risks of climate change require near-term action.”

Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, one of the signatories to the letter, stated, “Now is the right time for Washington to signal the markets that our nation is committed to maximizing these opportunities while minimizing the risks from climate change.”

Corporate members of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) also wrote to the President, stating, “Performance standards for new and existing plants are essential steps toward spurring innovation and investment in low and no-carbon technologies as well as new energy infrastructure and energy efficiency.”

“The new standards will reinforce what forward-looking companies already know,” the letter continued. “Climate change poses real financial risks and opportunities and that the future of the electric power sector depends on investing in cleaner technologies and more efficient resources—investments that create jobs and economic benefits.”

The 24 corporate signatories to the letter are among the more than 600 companies that have signed the Climate Declaration. Signatories to the Declaration, which was launched in April of this year, advocate for a coordinated effort to combat climate change.

During his aforementioned speech at Georgetown, Obama also said, “I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

Apparently the Society hasn't yet seen fit to disband. In response to the proposed standards, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The President is leading a war on coal and what that really means for Kentucky families is a war on jobs. The announcement by the EPA is another back door attempt by President Obama to fulfill his long-term commitment to shut down our nation’s coal mines.”

And Bruce Josten, Vice President of the US Chamber of Commerce, stated, “The EPA is continuing to move forward with a strategy that will write off our huge, secure, affordable coal resources by essentially outlawing the construction of new coal plants...they have released yet another major regulation that will hamper economic growth and job creation, and could lead to higher energy costs for American families and businesses.”

“Furthermore, we continue to believe that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” Josten continued.

It is widely expected that the proposed standards will face court challenges by the Chamber and other industry trade groups.


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