The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved quickly to submit a plan for its proposed greenhouse gas rule for coal power plants, sending the White House its draft Monday, less than a week after President Obama announced his new climate change agenda.
According to Politico, the contents of the draft will not be made public for a few months. However, it hints that the EPA may have had the draft ready when Obama made his climate change speech last Tuesday. It also raises the possibility that the EPA will move quickly on an even bigger rule regulating the greenhouse gas emissions of existing U.S. power plants, which is due next June.
“It’s already July, and I think it would be embarrassing for the administration to miss its very first deadline,” said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council and an attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani.
Both rules will likely prove to be a serious disadvantage to the coal industry, despite the administration’s promise to give up to $8 billion to help coal plants meet the new standards.
Before the draft can be publicized, the Office of Management and Budget must analyze the draft and gather input from other agencies before it sends the draft back to EPA. The president has set a September 20 deadline for the release of the future plant rule to the public.
According to the president’s memorandum to the EPA, his speech on Tuesday revealed plans to issue a proposal in “light of the information conveyed in more than 2 million comments on that proposal and ongoing developments in the industry.”
Initially, the EPA released a draft in April 2012 calling for any new power plant to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the level of a “state-of-the-art, combined cycle natural gas plant.” It would require new plants to use expensive and rare carbon capture technology. The original draft standard required 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour. However, it missed its deadline for a final version of the draft this April. As a result, some cities, states, and environmental groups threatened legal action.
It’s uncertain what changes the EPA has made from the initial proposal. One of the main concerns with the first draft was the EPA’s decision to set a uniform pollution limit for all power plants, instead of following the traditional approach to set various standards for different fuel types. In addition, there are concerns about the costs of coal and alternative sources, as well as fuel diversity. It remains to be seen in the new draft if the EPA decided to set different standards for various fuel types, and how punitive those standards will be.
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