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November 01, 2013
Bill would restrict EPA's power plant rules

Two federal lawmakers from coal-producing states have introduced legislation intended to sidetrack EPA’s plans to control emissions of GHGs from new and existing fossil fuel-fired power plants.

In September 2013, the Agency proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new power plants that would require emissions levels probably achievable only with carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that has worked in demonstration projects, but has not been deployed commercially.  Under President Obama’s climate plan, the EPA must also propose NSPS for existing plants by June 2014. 

‘Real-world’ rules

Sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the legislation is intended to ensure that any GHG standards set by the EPA for new coal-fired plants are able to be achieved by commercial power plants operating in the real world, including highly efficient plants that utilize the most modern, state-of-the-art emissions control technologies. 

“The agency’s proposed standard for new power plants will make America the only country in the world where you cannot build a coal-fired power plant because the technologies required to meet those standards are not commercially viable,” said Whitfield in a statement.   “The agency’s rule for existing plants is also likely to shut down even more plants across the country.” 

Achieved by six EGUs

The legislation has the following provisions:

  • The EPA must establish separate source categories for new power plants fueled with coal and natural gas.
  • For the coal category, the EPA may not set a standard unless it has been achieved for a continuous 12-month period by at least six electric generating units (EGU) at different power plants in the United States.
  • For the coal category, the EPA must establish a subcategory for new EGUs fueled by lignite coal and may not set a standard for that subcategory unless it has been achieved for a continuous 12-month period by at least three EGUs located at different power plants in the United States.
  • For the coal category, the EPA may not set the standards based on results from a demonstration project.
  • Any rules or guidelines issued by the EPA establishing standards of performance under Clean Air Act  Section 111 for modified or reconstructed fossil fuel-fired EGUs, or guidelines for existing fossil fuel-fired EGUs, will not take effect unless a federal law is enacted specifying such rules’ or guidelines’ effective date.
  • Such rules or guidelines may not take effect unless the administrator has submitted to Congress a report containing the text of such rules or guidelines; the economic impacts of such rules or guidelines, including potential effects on economic growth, competitiveness, and jobs, and on electricity ratepayers; and the amount of GHG emissions that such rules or guidelines are projected to reduce as compared to overall GHG emissions.

‘Scientific lunacy’

“By setting the benchmark for new coal plants on commercially available, best-in-class technology, this legislation would allow for coal—and hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports—to remain a vital part of the nation's economy while ensuring continued environmental progress from the utility sector,” commented the National Mining Association.

While the bill is bipartisan, it will likely find little support from Democrats in states where coal is not a dominant industry.
“The bill is scientific lunacy,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).  “It will endanger the future of our children and grandchildren.

Four weeks ago, Republicans in Congress recklessly shut down government.  Now they are recklessly trying to shut down efforts to protect the planet.”

Discussion draft of the Manchin-Whitfield bill

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