An EPA proposal to (almost) eliminate climate pollution from power plants - NPR

Coal and gas-fired power plants would have to eliminate nearly all their climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions in just a little over a decade, under proposed regulations issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Owners of those plants have been allowed to spew climate-warming carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere for more than a century. If these proposed regulations are finalized, they would come close to putting a stop to that practice.

The regulations are based on technologies that capture and then store deep underground 90% of carbon dioxide from coal and gas-fired plants. But some facilities that plan to shut down in coming years or that operate at less than 20% of their capacity would be subject to less stringent requirements. Those could include adding cleaner hydrogen to natural gas to limit its climate-warming effects.

The EPA projects the rules would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2042. The agency says that’s the equivalent to the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, or about half of the cars on the road today.

[EPA Administrator Michael Regan] says the regulation would also bring health benefits by reducing other air pollutants, such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The EPA projects that in 2030, the proposed rules would prevent 1,300 premature deaths, more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits and more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks. While the rules could increase electricity prices a “negligible” amount, the agency values the net climate and health benefits would be up to $85 billion.

Power plants are the second biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions in the country, according to the EPA, behind transportation.

According to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision, the EPA is required to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Even if the regulation survives an expected court challenge and takes effect, a future administration could change it. In 2019 former President Trump replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with his much weaker Affordable Clean Energy rule. That means these rules likely will become an issue in the upcoming 2024 presidential election campaign.

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Organizations: Environmental Protection Agency 

People: Michael Regan 

Tags: Clean Air Act Pollution Climate Change Environmentalism Fossil Fuel 

Type: Headlines