The New Age of Power Plants According to EPA

EPA is proposing to take common-sense steps under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants. EPA’s proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies. The agency’s proposal, which does not apply to plants currently operating or new permitted plants that begin construction over the next 12 months, is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already using to build the current next generation of power plants. The new technology is often carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Power plants are the largest individual sources of carbon pollution in the United States and currently there are no uniform national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to emit. As a partial result of this and court rulings EPA is proposing a new carbon emission standard.

The proposed rule would apply only to new fossil fuel fired electric utility generating units (EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel fired EGUs include fossil fuel fired boilers, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) units and stationary combined cycle turbine units that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW).

The proposal would not apply to:

Existing units including modifications such as changes needed to meet other air pollution standards

New power plant units that have permits and start construction within 12 months of this proposal; or units looking to renew permits that are part of a Department of Energy demonstration project, provided that these units start construction within 12 months of this proposal.

New units located in non continental areas, which include Hawaii and the territories.

New units that do not burn fossil fuels (e.g., burn biomass only).

EPA is proposing that new fossil fuel fired power plants meet an output based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour (lb CO2/MWh gross).

New natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant units should be able to meet the proposed standard without add on controls. In fact, based on available data, EPA believes that nearly all (95%) of the NGCC units built recently (since 2005) would meet the standard.

New power plants that are designed to use coal or petroleum coke would be able to incorporate technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to meet the standard, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

As part of the focus on ensuring continued use of a diverse range of domestically produced fuel sources, the proposed standard provides flexibilities for new power plants to phase in technology to reduce carbon pollution. New power plants that use CCS would have the option to use a 30 year average of CO2 emissions to meet the proposed standard, rather than meeting the annual standard each year.

Plants that install and operate CCS right away would have the flexibility to emit more CO2 in the early years as they learn how to best optimize the controls.

A company could build a coal fired plant and add CCS later. For example, a new power plant could emit more CO2 for the first 10 years and then emit less for the next 20 years, as long as the average of those emissions met the standard.

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