WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed tight carbon pollution standards for the country’s fossil fuel-fired power fleet based on the best controls available.
“CATF welcomes these proposed rules with open arms,” said Armond Cohen, Executive Director at Clean Air Task Force. “Power plants are the largest industrial cause of global warming in the U.S., accounting for 30 percent of U.S. carbon pollution, as well as many other pollutants harming human health, and yet today the bulk of those emissions remain completely uncontrolled. We have the technology to drive those emissions to near-zero, and EPA’s proposed rule will set us on the path to get there. We support this carefully formulated proposal and look forward to engaging with the agency during the comment period.”
The proposal is estimated to provide significant emissions reductions and subsequent public health benefits by reducing CO2 and other harmful air pollutants. EPA estimates the new gas and existing coal standards will lead to reductions of 617 million metric tonnes of CO2 from 2028 to 2042. Separately, the EPA estimates that the proposed requirements for existing gas-fired combustion turbines would reduce 214 to 407 million metric tonnes of CO2 through 2042. Alongside significant CO2 reductions, the EPA estimates these proposed standards will save 1,300 lives in 2030 alone and reduce tens of thousands of tonnes of other harmful air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and fine particulate matter, between 2028-2042, among other public health benefits.
The Clean Air Act instructs EPA to survey the control systems available for carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants and choose the best one, considering costs, as the basis for emissions standards. Last year, the Supreme Court spoke more favorably of conventional, at-the-source controls that cause the plants to operate more cleanly. Once the agency chooses the best system, it sets emission limits based on what the system can achieve. The states and power plants then have flexibility to comply with those limits in any way they choose.
“After two failed attempts to regulate the power sector’s tremendous carbon pollution load, EPA finally gets it just right with this proposal,” said Jay Duffy, CATF Litigation Director. “Relying on its conventional Clean Air Act authority to divide the power fleet into subcategories and set stringent emission limits based on traditional controls such as efficiencies, fuels and scrubbers, the Agency proposed meaningful emission limits on the bulk of the fleet based on cost-effective pollution control measures.”
Today’s proposal bases emission standards for large, high-polluting, fossil fuel-fired power plants on the reductions available using carbon capture and sequestration. These carbon scrubbers are akin to the pollution controls on which EPA has based standards for decades.
“Carbon capture and sequestration has been tested and demonstrated in the power sector,” said John Thompson, CATF Technology and Markets Director. “Costs of the technology have declined and will continue to decline. By proposing emission standards, EPA has added the last piece of the puzzle to propel significant decarbonization of the U.S. power sector.”
“While carbon capture sets the emissions reduction standards in these rules,” added Duffy, “states and power plant operators will ultimately have the choice of how to meet those standards. Several pollution reduction measures, in addition to post-combustion carbon capture, are available, and, with these rules, the Clean Air Act can tap into them to unleash the power sector’s potential to provide reliable, low-cost, low-emissions electricity to power the country.”
EPA will hold public hearings on the proposal in June. Once EPA’s proposal is published in the Federal Register, the agency will accept public comments for 60 days.
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.