EPA Proposes Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants

September 20, 2013

On September 20 the EPA proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) performance standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants.

The proposed standards represent an important component of President Barack Obama’s climate action plan. GHG emissions from the power sector account for approximately 40 percent of total U.S. emissions, and represent the single largest category of emissions.

The proposal requires new natural gas- and coal-fired power plants to meet specific carbon pollution emission standards in the range of 1,000 to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (lbs CO2 / MWh). 

Large natural gas-fired power plants would be required to meet a standard of 1,000 lbs CO2/MWh. Modern natural gas combined-cycle power plants can meet that target without any additional pollution-control equipment.

Coal-fired power plants would be required to meet a standard of 1,100 lbs CO2/MWh. New efficient coal plants could meet this standard with the partial use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The proposed rule also would allow for coal plants to choose a seven-year averaging option that would allow for more lead time and flexibility in the use of CCS technology.

This is the second proposed GHG new source performance standard rule issued by EPA. It replaces the first proposed rule, issued in April 2012, which proposed a single standard for both natural gas-fired and coal-fired power plants. (77 Fed. Reg. 22,392).

The EPA will open a 60-day comment period on the proposal following its publication in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov by referencing Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0495. EPA will also hold a public hearing on the proposed rule.

The EPA is also moving forward with the development of performance standards for modified, reconstructed, and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. President Obama directed EPA to promulgate a proposed rule for existing sources by June 1, 2014 in a June 25, 2013, Presidential Memorandum.

The Georgetown Climate Center has been working with states and other stakeholders to understand how standards for existing sources can build on current state clean energy and greenhouse gas programs that are already reducing carbon pollution and providing economic and health benefits to states.

The Center worked collaboratively with states to develop a set of questions for EPA to consider as it engages with stakeholders to develop proposed standards for existing power plants.

The Center has also released a two-page policy background document that highlights the opportunity to build on existing state programs to reduce carbon pollution and the benefits these programs are already delivering to communities across the country.

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