EPA Cracks Down Hard on Coal Power Plants

New rules, applauded by climate groups, tell plants to capture emissions or close
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 25, 2024 8:56 AM CDT
EPA to Coal Power Plants: Capture Emissions or Close
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 27, 2023, in Washington. A rule issued April 25, 2024, by the EPA would force power plants fueled by coal or natural gas to capture smokestack emissions or shut down.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Coal-fired power plants would be forced to capture smokestack emissions or shut down under a rule issued Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency, per the AP. New limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants are the Biden administration's most ambitious effort yet to roll back planet-warming pollution from the power sector, the nation's second-largest contributor to climate change. Coal plants that plan to stay open beyond 2039 would have to cut or capture 90% of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2032, the EPA said. Plants that expect to retire by 2039 would face a less stringent standard but still would have to capture some emissions. Coal plants that are set to retire by 2032 would not be subject to the new rule.

A key part of President Biden's pledge to eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide by 2050, the rule was among four separate measures targeting coal and natural gas plants that the EPA said would provide "regular certainty" to the power industry and encourage them to make investments to transition "to a clean energy economy." They also include requirements to reduce toxic wastewater pollutants from coal-fired plants and to safely manage so-called coal ash in unlined storage ponds. The plan is likely to be challenged by industry groups and Republican-leaning states, which have repeatedly accused the Democratic administration of overreach on environmental regulations and have warned of a looming reliability crisis for the electric grid.

Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said that through the latest rules, "the EPA is systematically dismantling the reliability of the US electric grid.'' But environmental groups hailed EPA's latest action as urgently needed to protect against the devastating harms of climate change. The power plant rule marks the first time the federal government has restricted carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The new standards will avoid 1.38 billion metric tons of carbon pollution through 2047, equivalent to the annual emissions of 328 million gas cars, the EPA said, and will provide hundreds of billions of dollars in climate and health benefits, measured in fewer premature deaths, asthma cases, and lost work or school days. (More carbon emissions stories.)

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