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EPA Publishes Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Electric Utility Generating Units


By Kate E. Beatty, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP

On Jan. 8, 2014, after a significant delay, EPA published its revised proposed standards for new electric utility generating units (EGUs or more commonly, power plants) and simultaneously withdrew the previously published April 2012 proposed standards. (79 Federal Register 1430 and 79 Federal Register 1352). After receipt of over 2.5 million comments regarding the April proposal, EPA determined the proposed standards required substantial revisions. The three month delay following the release of the September version of the standards left many speculating whether EPA would make significant changes to the pre-publication version.  However, no significant changes were made to the pre-publication version.      

The newly proposed standards for EGUs set the first national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be allowed to emit. EPA states that the revised proposal is in line with technologies that are already available in the power sector such as the allowance of coal-fired units to implement partial carbon capture and storage (CSS) technologies.  

The issuance of this new proposed rule was stimulated by President Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan which specifically directed EPA to issue a new proposal to set carbon pollution standards for new power plants. In addition to directing EPA to develop standards for new power plants, the President directed EPA to have proposed guidelines for existing sources by June 2014, and to finalize them a year later. The proposed rules for existing sources are expected to be less stringent than and different from the standards proposed for new EGUs but even more controversial given that they will apply to all existing coal-fired power plants.

The proposed standards for new power plants would set an output based emissions limit of 1,100 pounds (lbs) of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour (MWh) over a 12-month operating period or 1,000 to 1,050 lbs/MWh of electricity for fossil fuel-fired EGUs over an 84-month operating period, respectively, and a standard of 1,000 lbs/MWh or 1,100 lbs/MWh for new natural gas-fired plants (depending on the size). These new standards could require fossil fuel-fired EGUs to install CCS technologies. Originally, EPA’s proposal included a single standard for all fossil-fuel generating facilities, regardless of fuel or technology used. The comment period for this proposed rule ends March 10, 2014. EPA held a public hearing on Feb. 6, 2014.

To view a complete PDF of the Fourth Quarter 2013 issue of the Air Quality Letter, click HERE.


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