EPA announces plan to ease the carbon emission rule for new coal-fired plants

EPA announces plan to ease the carbon emission rule for new coal-fired plants

A tow line pushes inland barges full of grain on the Mississippi past the coal-fired Sioux power plant in West Alton, Mo. (Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post). Brady Dennis Reporter with focus on environmental policy and public health Steven Mufson Reporter for energy and other financial issues December 6th at 2:38 pm The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it plans to revise a rule that would have forced new US coal-fired power plants to to capture their carbon dioxide emissions, indicating the last effort of the Trump administration to abolish the climate regulations of the Obama era. The acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said at a press conference in the afternoon that the rule of the Obama administration, which actually required a new coal plant to have costly carbon capture equipment to meet certain emission standards, was "insincere" because the cost of technology made new coal plans unfeasible. Wheeler said that the proposed policy of the Trump government would have "high but achievable standards rooted in reality", which would result in "leveling the playing field" for all types of fuels. "You will see a decrease in emissions," claimed Wheeler, who said that US investment would lead to new technologies. "By making the genius of the private sector work, we can keep the American energy reliable and plentiful." The latest Trump downturn in the area of ​​environmental conservation, if adopted, would probably have little effect, said both business representatives and environmentalists. "No new coal-fired plants in the US will be built, with or without this," said David Doniger, a senior climate and energy policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, noting that the low natural gas price in recent years has made coal economically less profitable. Nonetheless, Doniger called the proposal a "head-in-the-sand" attempt to give in to the coal industry that Wheeler used to lobby for and to ignore increasingly clear evidence of the risks of climate change. "Science tells us that we need to drastically cut emissions from burning fossil fuels," Doniger said. "Any administration that looks at reality would not revoke this requirement, but would look at ways to extend it … They go backwards." Jeff Holmstead, legal partner and energy lobbyist Bracewell and former head of the air and radiation office of The EPA, agreed that undoing what effectively amounted to a ban on new coal plants is "largely symbolic in this point." In addition, Holmstead said, there has never been an application to modify or reconstruct a plant under the section of the Clean Air Act on which the rule is based. However, the National Mining Association said that building new, more efficient coal-fired plants could reduce the overall carbon dioxide emissions by the nation. "Improving the average efficiency of coal-fired power plants from 33 percent to 40 percent using the advanced high-emission low-emission technology that exists could reduce emissions of US coal-fired power plants by up to 21 percent," said Ashley Burke, a spokeswoman for the branch organization. However, building new coal-fired power stations would be expensive. Burke said that companies need subsidies in the form of tax incentives and loan guarantees. Last month, Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) Proposed legislation that would provide loan guarantees and other incentives for the construction of new coal-fired plants. But supporters of renewable energy say that the kind of drastic reduction of CO2 emissions needed to slow down global warming would only come when coal-fired plants are closed and replaced by wind, solar or geothermal facilities. "This proposal is another illegal attempt by the Trump government to support an industry that is already burdened by the powerful power of the free market," Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) Said in a statement. Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Commission, said: "If the president gave miners, he would work on ways to help the industry's staff adapt to the new economic reality and start invest in their future. " A panel of UN scientists said in a recent report that coal and gas plants still in operation must be equipped with carbon capture technologies to reduce CO2 emissions needed to keep the world below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2 , 7 degrees Fahrenheit) of the warming beyond pre-industrial levels. "This is just one step that this administration is taking to show a fairly complete disregard for public health and the health of the planet, in favor of what appears to be a rather elusive goal here," said Janet McCabe, who served as the EPA & # 39; s acting assistant administrator for Office of Air and Radiation during the Obama administration and helped shape the existing rule. McCabe called the emissions standards set during her watch & # 39; fitting & # 39; and said that the Trump government is likely to have to defend the reasons for the courts in order to relax them. "Sending a signal of minimal ambition, if there is one, is the wrong direction to go when the national climate assessment has just told us that it is pretty daunting," she said and called it the latest signal of ignoring it. climate by the administration. -related risk & # 39; s. "They have given nothing but this signal with line after line after line." The Energy Information Administration said this week that American coal consumption had dropped to a 40-year low. The agency said the use of coal by the American electricity sector in 2018 will decrease by 4 percent or 691 million short tons. Electricity producers in the United States are shutting down coal plants by 14.3 gigawatts this year, more than twice the 7 gigawatts of capacity retired in 2017, according to S & P Global Market Intelligence. Another 22.9 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations are already planned for closure in 2024.