WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is proposing new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants. It’s the most ambitious effort yet to stop global warming pollution, the country’s second leading cause of climate change.
A rule released by the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday could force power plants to capture chimney emissions using technology that has been promised for years but is not widespread in the United States.
If the draft regulation is finalized, it will be the first federal government cap on carbon emissions from existing power plants. The power plant produces about 25% of the greenhouse gas pollution in the United States, second only to the transportation sector. The rule will also apply to future power plants and could avoid up to 617 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2042, equivalent to the annual emissions of 137 million passenger cars, the EPA said.
The EPA said nearly all coal-fired power plants, as well as heavily used large gas-fired plants, should reduce or capture nearly all of their carbon emissions by 2038. . Factories that fail to meet the new standards will be forced to close.
The plan is likely to be challenged by industry groups and Republican-leaning states that have accused the Democratic administration of overreaching environmental regulations and warned of an impending grid reliability crisis. This power plant rule is one of at least six EPA regulations that limit power plant emissions and wastewater treatment.
“The sheer ferocity of government regulation aimed at shutting down coal-fired power plants early,” said Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, in an interview before the rule was announced. It’s an attack,” he said.
EPA Administrator Michael Reagan acknowledged in a call with reporters on Wednesday that “we will see some coal retirement,” but said the power plant rules and other regulations are aimed at closing the coal fleet. Denied.
Coal provides about 20% of US electricity, down from about 45% in 2010. Natural gas provides approximately 40% of the electricity in the United States. The remainder comes from nuclear energy and renewables such as wind, solar and hydropower.
“EPA is on a mission to reduce harmful pollution that threatens people’s health and well-being,” Reagan said, adding that the proposal “relies on proven and readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution.” It added that the proposal builds on industry practices already in place to limit carbon pollution. Aiming for clean energy.
Edison Electric Association chairman Tom Kuhn, who represents investor-owned utilities in the United States, said the group will evaluate whether the EPA’s proposal is consistent with the association’s commitment to providing reliable and clean energy. said to do.
Carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector are at the same level as in 1984, but electricity use has increased 73% since then, Kuhn said.
EPA regulations do not mandate the use of equipment to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions (the technology is expensive and still under development), but instead require the use of carbon dioxide emissions that power plant operators must comply with. It is intended to set an upper limit for carbon pollution. Some natural gas plants may start mixing the gas with other fuel sources, such as carbon-free hydrogen, but the specifics will be left to the industry.
Still, the regulation is expected to lead to greater use of carbon capture equipment, which the EPA says is “well-proven” to curb pollution.
Jay Duffy, an attorney with the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force, said the EPA rule will likely drive the adoption of “carbon capture” technologies far beyond current usage. Stated. “This is the way (fossil fuel) plants operate in a decarbonized world,” he said before the rules were announced.
“The industry is innovating and over-complying,” Duffy said, citing a 1970s EPA rule that required power plants to use sulfur dioxide scrubbers. At the time, he had only three commercial scrubber units and one vendor in operation at power plants in the United States. Within a few years, 119 sulfur scrubbers had been installed, with 13 contractors, Duffy said in an essay posted on the group’s website.
Most recently, the U.S. power industry exceeded emissions targets set by the Obama administration in the Clean Power Plan, even though the plan was blocked by court and not implemented.
Still, the scope of power plant regulations is vast. About 60 percent of the electricity generated in the United States last year came from burning fossil fuels at the nation’s 3,400 coal- and gas-fired power plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“These rules are a big deal,” said David Doniger, senior strategy director for climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Power plant regulations are critical to meeting President Joe Biden’s goals to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and make the grid carbon-free by 2035. He and other supporters said.
“We need to do this to address the climate crisis,” Doniger said.
The proposal comes just weeks after the Biden administration announced tough new tailpipe pollution limits that would require up to two-thirds of new cars sold in the United States by 2032 to be electric. It comes months after announcing rules to curb methane leaks from U.S. and gas wells.
The rule builds on climate change measures from the 2021 Infrastructure Act and billions of dollars in tax credits and other incentives from the Inflation Control Act that was approved last year.
While Mr. Biden has made fighting global warming a top priority, his recent decision to approve the controversial Willow Oil Project in Alaska has drawn criticism from environmental activists, especially young climate change activists. faces severe criticism of A massive drilling program by oil giant ConocoPhillips could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day on Alaska’s oil-rich North Slope. Environmental groups have called Willow a “carbon bomb” and launched a #StopWillow campaign on social media.
The new plan comes 14 years after the EPA declared carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endangering public health. President Barack Obama tried to put limits on carbon pollution from US power plants, but the 2015 Clean Power Plan was blocked by the Supreme Court and then withdrawn by President Donald Trump.
Last year, the Supreme Court restricted how the Clean Air Act can be used to reduce climate-causing emissions from power plants. The 6-3 ruling confirmed the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, but said it could not force a nationwide shift away from using coal for power generation.
The EPA said the new rule will give plant operators the flexibility to meet the new standards in any way they choose. And rather than setting one limit that all plants must meet, officials said they would set different targets based on plant size, frequency of use and whether they are already scheduled for retirement. .
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