EPA rule would place stricter standards on emissions from new power plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September revised its rule to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new electric generating units. The proposed rule requires all future coal-fired generating plants to operate under significantly stricter emissions standards than existing facilities. Additionally, EPA set limits for larger natural gas generating units.

“North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are better positioned than many in the industry to manage this situation,” said Joe Brannan, CEO of the statewide organizations representing North Carolina’s electric cooperatives. “The majority of current needs are being met with natural gas, emission–free nuclear generation and hydropower. However, the proposed regulations are still concerning. To meet these limits, new coal-fired generation must use commercially untested technologies, such as carbon capture and storage. In the foreseeable future, coal will no longer be a viable or economically sound choice. Fewer choices can become problematic down the road.” 

The EPA rule affects generating facilities not yet under construction. The agency is expected to address standards for existing plants by June 2014. EPA is empowered to set rules on CO2 emissions under the federal Clean Air Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that EPA must regulate CO2 and greenhouse gases as pollutants.

Responding to the EPA announcement, Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, said, “Unlike President Obama’s prior comments, the proposed regulation indicates the administration no longer supports an ‘all of the above’ strategy to address climate change. The Obama administration is gambling with the economic well-being of future generations and our nation’s economy. As not-for-profit, consumer-owned utilities, electric co-ops are deeply concerned about maintaining affordable, reliable electricity.”

Emerson urged the Obama administration to reconsider this proposal and focus on working with co-ops as they continue to reduce power plant emissions, develop renewable energy, increase efficiency and develop affordable new technologies.

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