A group of Senate Democrats requested the Administration to reconsider EPA’s proposed emissions regulations that would essentially ban construction of new coal-fueled power plants in the U.S.

Four Senate Democrats, led by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), wrote to President Obama seeking amendments of EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new power plants. The letter – released on March 18, 2013 – explains that implementation of the current draft would effectively ban construction of new coal-based power plants. Drawing attention to provisions that place new coal-fueled plants and natural gas-fueled plants in the same standard, the Senators called for different emissions standards based on fossil fuel type.

Developed in March 2012, under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, NSPS applies to specified categories of stationary sources. Under Section 111(b), EPA proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants, covering fossil-fuel based power generating units across U.S Under the standards, new coal-fueled plants would be required to match the emissions performance of the most efficient natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants. The rule limits emission of new fossil fuel-based power plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per MWh.

New natural gas-fired plants can to comply with the NSPS regulations without implementing additional technologies, however coal-fired plants must install expensive carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS) to comply. CCS collects and permanently sequesters emissions underground. The rule is based on a 30-year emissions average allowing covered facilities to continually improve CCS equipment. However, the technology has yet to become viable for implementation.

EPA has received more than two million comments on the draft rule and is currently in the process of finalizing regulations. While the regulations are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, industry maintains that the rule would be an economic burden. Upon implementation, the regulations could have an adverse effect on national coal production and jeopardize U.S. power reliability.

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