US EPA sets pioneering curbs on power plant pollution

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20 September 2013

NEW YORK: The Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy today announced first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants.

Gina McCarthy announced the measures—the first-ever limits on the amount of carbon pollution that new American power plants can generate—at a National Press Club conference. During her speech she said: "Climate change, caused by carbon pollution, is one of the most significant public health threats of our time. That’s why EPA has been called to action. And that’s why today’s action is so important for us to talk about."

Under the proposal new coal plants would need to be built with carbon capture and storage technology in order to meet the guidelines, which require:

  • large natural gas-fired plants to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour (MWh)
  • new small natural gas-fired units to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh
  • new coal-fired power plants to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 a megawatt hour.

The rule was revised from the original version that was announced last year, and is the first step in President Obama's climate change package, which he announced in June

Evan Juska, Head of US Policy, The Climate Group, commented: "The fact the revised rule retains about the same level of ambition as the original shows that the Administration doesn't plan to be overly cautious when proposing new carbon standards - aiming to strike a balance between stringency and legal certainty.

"It also keeps them on pace to finalize rules for existing power plants by 2016, which is critical for getting everything on the books before the President leaves office."

National Grid US President Tom King reiterated his support for EPA's move: “National Grid has long supported federal legislation as a comprehensive means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, in the absence of federal legislation, we support EPA moving forward with greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act."

He added, “Today, EPA took an important initial step and proposed standards for new power plants. While National Grid is still reviewing the details of the proposal, this rule, in combination with the expected standards for existing plants, will help provide certainty about what EPA will require as investment decisions are made for power plants.”

In her speech, Gina McCarthy also highlighted the economic benefits of investing in clean energy. She said: "Just this week, the Department of Energy released a report showing the cost of renewables dropping, while their use has grown. And last year, in 2012, the US deployed almost twice as much wind as it did the year before. Working together – with input from states, communities, tribes, industry, and environmental advocates – we have grown our economy, we have driven innovation, and we have created healthier, safer, more livable communities to hand down to our children and grandchildren."

Learn more about achieving an American Clean Revolution at Climate Week NYC. We will be live streaming the Opening Ceremony where business, government and civic society leaders from across America and the rest of the world will call for leaders to move from dialogue, to climate action.

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