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EPA proposes CO2 limits for future power plants; flexibilities for phasing in control technology; anticipates negligible impacts

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new power plants.

EPA is proposing that new fossil‐fuel‐fired power plants meet an output‐based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt‐hour (lb CO2/MWh gross), or 453.59 kg CO2/MWh. The proposed rule would apply only to new fossil-fuel-fired electric utility generating units (EGUs); plants currently operating or new permitted plants that begin construction over the next 12 months are exempt. Also exempt are units looking to renew permits that are part of a Department of Energy (DOE) demonstration project, provided that these units start construction within 12 months of this proposal (i.e., “transitional” units); new units located in non‐continental areas, which include Hawaii and the territories; and new units that do not burn fossil fuels (e.g., burn biomass only).

In its regulatory impact assessment of the proposed rulemaking, EPA noted that other GHGs such as nitrous oxide (N2O) (and to a lesser extent, methane (CH4)) may be emitted from fossil-fuel-fired EGUs, especially from coal-fired circulating fluidized bed combustors and from units with selective catalytic reduction and selective non-catalytic reduction systems installed for nitrogen oxide (NOx) control. EPA is not proposing separate N2O or CH4 emission limits or an equivalent CO2 emission limit because of a lack of available data for these affected sources.

For purposes of this rule, fossil-fuel-fired EGUs include fossil-fuel-fired boilers, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) units and stationary combined cycle turbine units that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW).

Although emissions vary by plant and with the specific type of fuel, EPA provided illustrative examples of CO2 emissions from EGUs:

  • Conventional coal: 1,800 lbs CO2/MWh
  • Natural Gas Combined Cycle: 820 lbs CO2/MWh
  • Coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS): 200 lbs CO2/MWh

According to the EPA, new natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant units should be able to meet the proposed standard without add‐on controls. Based on available data, EPA believes that nearly all (95%) of the NGCC units built recently (since 2005) would meet the standard.

EPA suggests that new power plants that are designed to use coal or petroleum coke would be able to incorporate technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to meet the standard, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The proposed standard provides flexibilities for new power plants to phase in technology to reduce carbon pollution:

  • New power plants that use CCS would have the option to use a 30‐year average of CO2 emissions to meet the proposed standard, rather than meeting the annual standard each year.

  • Plants that install and operate CCS right away would have the flexibility to emit more CO2 in the early years as they learn how to best optimize the controls.

  • A company could build a coal‐fired plant and add CCS later. For example, a new power plant could emit more CO2 for the first 10 years and then emit less for the next 20 years, as long as the average of those emissions met the standard.

  • CCS is expected to become more widely available, which should lead to lower costs and improved performance over time.

The EPA will accept comment on this proposed rule for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. EPA will also hold public hearings on this proposal. The dates, times, and locations of the public hearings will be available soon.

Background. Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of greenhouse gases new power plants can emit. On 2 April 2007, in the Massachusetts v. EPA decision, the US Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and EPA must determine if they threaten public health and welfare. On 15 December 2009, the EPA Administrator found that the current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. On 23 December 2010, EPA announced a proposed settlement agreement to issue rules that would address GHG pollution from certain fossil fuel‐fired EGUs. This agreement addressed, in part, EPA’s September 2007 remand of its February 2006 final decision not to set standards for boilers.

The proposed standard relies on the deployment of the same types of technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. EPA says that its proposal is in line with these investments. Even without the proposed rulemaking, EPA suggests, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard. market data and projections support the conclusion that, even in the absence of this rule, existing and anticipated economic conditions in the marketplace will lead electricity generators to choose technologies that meet the proposed standards. Therefore...EPA anticipates that the proposed EGU GHG NSPS will result in negligible CO2 emission changes, energy impacts, quantified benefits, costs, and economic impacts by 2020. Accordingly, EPA also does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets, or the US economy.

—EPA Regulatory Impact Analysis




Why ask for less (in 2014) than is already done? Something is not correct here.


You missed the "anticipates negligible impacts".

Kit P

This is clearly rules aimed at the coal-based power production and will do absolutely nothing to reduce AGW. China, India, Brazil! I wonder if they have heard of those places in DC and California.

Furthermore, the best available technology of ghg emissions has about 10 lbs CO2/MWh and produces 20% of US electricity.

Coal and natural gas are great ways to make electricity. I think that AGW is BS. However, those who claim to be concerned about AGW and thinking making power with NG instead of coal is a good solution; I think I know why. These people are not very good at science.

California produces NG and no coal. If California want to promote a standard that only benefits California, that is fine until it becomes a national standard.


Make them IGCC able to make fuels as well.

Roger Pham

>>"However, those who claim to be concerned about AGW and thinking making power with NG instead of coal is a good solution;"

Agree. This is an interim solution but not a good long-term solution, in which the CO2 emission should be 0/MWh. The EPA should have a definite schedule of phasing out CO2 emission so that industries can plan ahead well into the future. Perhaps the EPA should stipulate that each electric company should emit less and less CO2 per MWh after each year, forcing them to increasingly incorporating renewable energy sources into their electrical generation. Solar energy is growing at a very fast pace right now, so this is very doable even at the present. Battery is getting cheaper and cheaper and soon, should allow cost-effective storage of renewable energy, from V2G from PHEV's and from utility grid battery storage.

Understandably, this is an election year, so this EPA regulation is already very good and far-reaching. If pres. Obama will be elected another term, then hopefully we can see an eventual real transformation toward renewable energy.


Our regular naysayers should read 'Merchants of Doubt' written by Naomi Oreskes and Erick Conway. It could open their eyes on how a few scientists obscured the truth for $$$$. One may imagine that not only those few scientists are paid to obscure the truth and that many more are receiving $$$$ to participate on various forums such as this one.

Henry Gibson

Global warming is natures way of getting rid of the most destructive organism ever to develop; humans. Fossil fuel is the major reason for the expanding population. The population would sink to a billion within a few years of stopping to use fossil fuels. The sun is not renewable and neither is its use for producing bio-fuels. There are very few people who can afford the land necessary for solar energy to replace all of their energy use and the energy used to make products for them and ship them and sell them.

Put the regulation on the people not the companies who produce what the people demand. Every one would have only a CO2 card for buying everything; both money and CO2 would be deducted for every purchase of anything; cash would not be permitted, and people would be allowed only a few tons of CO2 a year, and then the CO2 limiting officials would be hounded from office. ..HG..

Kit P

I am not an expert on population growth but the credit goes to advances in medicine and agriculture.

Industrial countries with reliable and affordable power supplies are not having a population explosion or a problem with achieving a high quality of life while protecting the environment.

The problem with the proposed regulations is that if violates common sense. Pretending that coal is a fossil fuel but natural gas is not it a transparent attack of the coal industry to placate a political base.

HarveyD expectancy has been going down in USA in the last few years while it has been going up in most countries. According to many researchers, the main reasons may be found in what we eat, drink and breathe. Junk foods and obesity are on top of the list.

Claudio Timbers

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Drugie niebezpieczeństwo oprawi się z pogrożeniem kulturowym. - Maci obecnie w Polsce prowadzoną agresję kulturową, jaka ma wysadzić w powietrze w atmosfera niepolską wizy do usa tradycję nacjonalistyczną - szacuje zwierzchnik. Oddaje obserwację, iż całkowite relacje, z familią na czele, wznoszone poprzez stulecia, które jeszcze wizy usa ostatnio roniły się nieprawdopodobne do zepsucia, są w owej chwili negowane. Ów mechanizm, jaki kiedyś Dmowski zaprezentował wyrażeniami, że gdyby coś egzystuje na Zachodzie grypą, to u nas gruźlicą, przypadkiem się orzec - uprzedza.

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