EPA Proposes New Carbon Pollution Standards for Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new carbon pollution standards that would set limits for new gas-fired combustion turbines, existing coal, oil and gas-fired steam generating units, and certain existing gas-fired combustion turbines. The proposed standards are based on technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration/storage (CCS), low-GHG hydrogen co-firing, and natural gas co-firing, which can be applied directly to power plants that use fossil fuels to generate electricity. The proposed standards and emissions guidelines subcategorize power plants according to unit characteristics, such as capacity, frequency of operation, and intended length of operations. For example, existing coal-fired steam electric generating units (EGUs) that are to retire prior 2032 will be required to observe good operation and maintenance rather than enacting other measures, such as operational limitations, natural gas co-firing, or CCS, that may apply to units that will operate longer into the future.

In accord with the Clean Air Act Section 111(d), the proposed rule will require states to submit plans to EPA that provide for the establishment, implementation, and enforcement of standards of performance for existing sources. Generally, such plans establish standards that are at least as stringent as EPA’s emission guidelines, but states may take into account remaining useful life and other factors when applying standards to individual existing sources. Also, EPA is proposing to allow flexibility though emission trading and averaging. EPA proposes requiring states to submit plans within 24 months of the effective date of emissions guidelines, with compliance deadlines of January 1, 2030, 2032, and 2035 depending on EGU category. The proposal requires that states, in developing plans for existing sources, undertake meaningful engagement with affected stakeholders, including communities disproportionately burdened by pollution and climate change impacts, as well as energy communities and workers.

EPA projects that the proposal for coal and new natural gas power plants would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042 (equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of roughly half the cars in the United States) and achieve up to $85 billion in net health and climate benefits. Tens of thousands of tons of particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions would also be avoided, projected to prevent about 1.300 premature deaths, 800 hospital visits, over 300,000 asthma attacks, and 66,000 lost workdays in the year 2030. EPA conducted an environmental justice analysis on reducing adverse impacts, particularly to underserved and overburdened communities, and also followed Council on Environmental Quality guidance to ensure that deployment of CCS under the proposal is done in a responsible manner.

EPA will take comment on these proposals for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA will also hold a virtual public hearing and offer on June 6 and 7 virtual trainings to provide communities and Tribes with information about the proposal and the public comment process. For more information, including registration for the virtual trainings, hearing, and comment opportunities, see Greenhouse Gas Standards and Guidelines for Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants.