EPA Delays Rule to Limit Carbon Emissions from New Power Plants

UPDATE (1/8/2015): The White House has announced that EPA will not meet today’s deadline for issuing a final rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Instead, the agency will not finalize the rule until mid-summer, skirting a statutory deadline that requires EPA to finalize the rule within one year of its proposal. On a press call Jan. 7, EPA officials told reporters it plans to finalize the rule at the same time it completes its related rules limiting carbon emissions from existing and modified power plants.

UPDATE (3/6/2014): EPA announced in a Federal Register notice today a 60-day extension for submitting comments on the agency’s proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.  The extension also applies to a notice of data availability EPA published on Feb. 26, which solicits comments on the agency’s interpretation of provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 barring EPA from relying solely on information gathered from facilities receiving financial assistance under the act to demonstrate the technological feasibility or the limit of emissions level that can be achieved.  The new deadline for soliciting comments on both the proposal and notice of data availability is May 9, 2014.

For more information on how to submit comments or participate in this (or any) rulemaking, visit our Regulatory Resource Center.

UPDATE (1/8/2014): EPA’s proposed rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants was officially published in today’s Federal Register. Although EPA made the text of the rule available to the public on its website on Sept. 20, 2013, today’s publication marks the beginning of a 60-day comment period during which interested stakeholders have an opportunity to submit comments to the agency by the March 10, 2014 deadline. EPA will also host a public hearing on the proposal on Jan. 28 in Washington, DC. 

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued its long-awaited proposed rule limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new power plants. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming linked to climate changes over the past several decades and has resulted in increasing severity and frequency of storms and droughts, as well as rising sea levels and other environmental effects.

Electric utility power plants emit about 2.4 billion tons of CO2 each year, or roughly 40 percent of the nation's total emissions. EPA's proposed rule sets separate limits on CO2 emissions from gas-fired and coal-fired power plants and leaves selection of the methods for achieving those limits to the utilities. Cost-effective technologies that remove carbon dioxide pollution are now in use at several coal-fired power plants in the United States and other countries.

The limits on CO2 from new power plants are an important component of President Obama's action plan to address climate change announced on June 25. The rules were first proposed in April 2012, but EPA faced heavy criticism from some in the power industry and the Obama administration decided to revise the rule.

The original proposal set the emissions limit for carbon dioxide at 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity produced for all new power plants. The new proposal is less stringent, requiring new large gas-fired power plants to meet the 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour limit, while requiring smaller gas-fired power plants and all new coal-fired power plants to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. The proposal also gives coal-fired plants more flexibility by including an option to meet a more stringent limit by averaging emissions over multiple years.

EPA sent the proposed rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) inside the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on July 2. OIRA has long been criticized as a regulatory "black box" because crucial health, safety, and environmental protections sent to the office are often stuck in review for far longer than the maximum 120 days allowed by executive order. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (co-chaired by the Center for Effective Government) has urged the new OIRA administrator, Howard Shelanski, to address the lengthy delays and commit to promptly completing reviews to ensure critical protections are not unnecessarily delayed. We applaud Shelanski for ensuring that EPA's proposed rule to limit carbon pollution from new power plants moved through the review process in only 80 days.

In the days ahead, EPA and the Obama administration will face many challenges from climate change deniers, industry opponents, and their allies in Congress, but it is crucial that EPA move forward promptly and issue a strong final rule that will cut the harmful carbon emissions that cause climate change, harm our health, and threaten the continuity of our and other species. We also look forward to EPA's proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by June 1, 2014, in accordance with the president's climate action plan.

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