EPA puts foot down on future emissions

New carbon pollution standard would curb carbon pollution and can be met by both fossil fuel and renewable technologies.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, even though it is facing an increasingly hostile political climate, has proposed new emissions standards for power plants built in the future.

The EPA hopes the move will have the effect of ensuring that new facilities will generate electricity in a cleaner manner in the past. But, anticipating criticism, the agency has focused on ensuring that its new Clean Air Act standard is already in line with emerging technologies that are American-made and that can be met by a variety of different methods that use fossil fuels. That's important, because the EPA needs to avoid taking any action that is perceived as creating higher costs for industry.

"Right now, there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies -- and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, in a statement. "We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American-made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."

Any power plants that are being built starting in the next 12 months are exempt from the new rules.

The new rules would make it really tough for anyone to build a new coal plant after that timeframe, unless it included carbon capture technologies, but "clean-burning" natural gas generation makes out pretty well. The EPA describes the latter as "the technology of choice for new and planned power plants."

OK, everyone, have at it. I'm sure coal supporters will be really miffed, as will the renewable energy advocates who would love to see legacy coal plants addressed.

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