October 12, 2017


Don't Freak Out About the Clean Power Plan Repeal (Jake Bullinger, Oct 11, 2017, Outside)

Amid the recent hubbub over the Clean Power Plan, it's important to remember the law never actually went into effect. When the Obama Administration proposed it in 2014, the goal was to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent. But 28 states immediately sued the federal government in response, preventing the plan's implementation. (One attorney general who lead that initial charge? Oklahoma's Scott Pruitt, now administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who on Tuesday gleefully kicked off the process to repeal the CPP.)

The other point to remember about Obama's signature climate-change regulation is that it was written in tandem with another protection that remains in effect today: the New Source Rule, which limits emissions from new or modified power plants. Despite the current administration's best efforts to achieve otherwise, that regulation is working with broader economic forces to brush coal-fired energy aside.

The New Source Rule caps emissions for natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The limit for coal plants is 1,400 pounds. "That regulation essentially set a limit that allowed modern-technology natural gas plants to be permissible," says Ashley Lawson, a senior fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "But new coal-fired power plants were going to need to use some very new technology to meet the regulations."

That new technology is carbon capture and storage--the process of taking carbon dioxide from emissions, liquefying it, then pumping it underground. The most efficient coal-fired plants emit about 1,700 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, meaning any new or updated plants would have to employ carbon capture to meet the benchmark. It's an expensive process no American utility-scale plant has yet deployed.

Posted by at October 12, 2017 7:10 AM