EPA issues rules on CO2 and power plants

In April, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued its rules on regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. These new rules will have a significant effect on the industry, and if fully implemented, will also probably have a big effect on people’s utility bills. I am somewhat surprised these new rules haven’t created as much news as perhaps they should.

Basically, coal-fired power plants will need to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, if they want to operate past 2039. Also, new natural gas-fired power plants will need to install CCS after 2032. Separate rules for existing gas plants will apparently be issued later.

A pdf summary presentation from the EPA can be found here.

A separate summary of the rules from a legal firm can be found here. As described, these new rules have already come under legal challenges from the states and industry.

In my opinion, CCS is an unproven technology at the scale that will be needed. There are some places in the US that inject CO2 into the ground for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. This is called enhanced oil (gas) recovery. If CCS is used only to extract even more fossil fuels from the ground, is it really such a benefit for the climate? I am not aware of any power plant in the US that currently sequesters its CO2. There is one plant in Canada (near the US border) that is supposed to sequester 90% of its CO2, but the actual performance has been somewhat lower than that.

There is probably a long legal battle in the future, so it remains to be seen how the final implementation will look. The upcoming decision on Chevron Deference from the USSC may also impact these EPA rules.

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New rules on existing gas-fired power plants will be delayed.

  • Pete