Washington The Obama administration forged ahead on Tuesday with the first-ever limits on heat-trapping pollution from new power plants, ignoring protests from industry and Republicans who have said the regulation will raise electricity prices and kill off coal, the dominant U.S. energy source.
But the proposal also fell short of environmentalists’ hopes because it goes easier than it could have on coal-fired power, one of the largest sources of the gases blamed for global warming.
“The standard will check the previously uncontrolled amount (of carbon pollution) that power plants ... release into our atmosphere,” Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. But “it also creates a path forward for future facilities to use technology that burns coal, while releasing less carbon pollution.”
Older coal-fired power plants have already been shutting down across the country, thanks to low natural gas prices, demand from China driving up coal’s price and weaker demand for electricity.
Regulations from the EPA to control pollution blowing downwind and toxic emissions from power plants have also helped push some into retirement, causing Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail to claim the agency will cause blackouts. Numerous studies and an AP survey of power plant operators have shown that is not the case.
But on Tuesday, GOP leaders once again accused the administration of clamping down on cheap, home-grown sources of energy and said the regulation raised questions about the sincerity of President Barack Obama’s pledge for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
“This rule is part of the Obama administration’s aggressive plan to change America’s energy portfolio and eliminate coal as a source of affordable, reliable electricity generation,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has led the charge against environmental regulations. “EPA continues to overstep its authority and ram through a series of overreaching regulations in it attacks on America’s power sector.”
The rule announced Tuesday could either derail or jump-start plans for 15 new coal-fired power plants in 10 states, depending on when they start construction. Those that break ground in the next year would be exempt from the new limit. Those that start construction later will have to eventually comply with the rule.
The 10 states with proposed new coal-fired generation that could be covered by the regulation are Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Georgia, Utah, Wyoming and Kansas.