E.P.A. to Propose First Controls on Greenhouse Gases From Power Plants

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s administration is poised to announce limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that could force them to capture pollution from their chimneys, a technology currently used by less than 20 of them. The nation’s 3,400 coal and gas-fired plants use it, according to three people who were briefed on the rule.

If implemented, the proposed regulation would be the first time the federal government limits carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which produce about 25% of the planet-warming pollution produced by the United States. go out. It will also apply to factories in the future.

Nearly all coal and gas-fired power plants will have to cut or recover nearly all of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2040, according to people familiar with the regulation, who requested anonymity. because the rule has not been made public.

The proposed rule will inevitably face resistance from the fossil fuel industry, power plant operators and their allies in Congress. It is likely to present an immediate legal challenge from a group of Republican attorney generals who have sued the Biden administration to block other climate policies. A future administration could also weaken regulation.

The regulation, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget and could still be adjusted.

Maria Michalos, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said the agency is “urgently moving forward with standards that protect people and the planet, building on momentum from the President’s Invest in America economic agenda Biden, including proposals to address carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. “

It will not mandate the use of carbon capture equipment, a nascent and expensive technology; instead, it will set limits on the pollution rates that plant operators will have to meet. They could do that using a different technology or, in the case of gas plants, switching to a fuel source like green hydrogen, which emits no carbon, according to people familiar with the matter. But the regulation could lead to wider adoption of carbon capture technology, the people said.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, most of the electricity generated in the United States last year – about 60% – came from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil.

The proposal follows two other plans by the Biden administration to Dramatically cuts exhaust emissions by accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehiclesAnd Limit methane leakage from oil and gas wells.

If those three regulations are implemented as proposed, they will significantly reduce the planet-warming pollution generated by the world’s largest economy. Together with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a law that pours $370 billion into clean energy programs, they will put the country on track to meet Mr. Biden’s pledge to cut gas in half. emissions by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2050.

It is necessary action by all major industrialized countries to keep average global temperatures from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists say. pre-industrial. Beyond that point, the effects of catastrophic heatwaves, floods, droughts, crop failures, and species extinctions will become significantly harder to handle for humanity. The planet has warmed by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius.

Mr. Biden has said he is ready to use his executive power to take action on global warming, a point he stressed recently after facing harsh criticism from environmentalists. schools, especially young climate activists, because of his approval decision last month. a giant oil drilling project in the wilderness of Alaskacalled Willow.

“We have to do more than recognize the climate challenges we face,” Biden told other world leaders during a video conference on Thursday to discuss climate. and energy. “We are determined to strengthen our ambitions and actions. And, yes, we are willing to work hard to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

When it comes to climate regulation for power plants, Mr. Biden hopes to succeed while his former boss, President Barack Obama, has failed. Nearly a decade ago, Mr. Obama attempted to enact broad limits on power plant pollution, first thwarted by the Supreme Court and later rescinded by President Donald J. Trump. Last summer, the Supreme Court confirmed that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants but in a limited way.

But three factors have driven the Biden administration. First, carbon capture technology has evolved since the Obama administration. Second, when the Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, they added language that classifies greenhouse gases as a pollutant regulated by the EPA. Finally, the new law provides tax credits to power plant operators that capture their carbon, making the technology more financially viable.

Rather than create a limit that all power plants must comply with, the EPA intends to be flexible, people familiar with the new plan said. It plans to set different goals based on the size of the plant, whether it operates regularly or intermittently, and whether it has been scheduled for retirement. Some coal plants scheduled to close over the next decade may not have to meet the new standards.

Patrick Morrisey, the Republican attorney general in West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, said Friday that he and others are waiting to see Biden’s plan. “We are eager to review the EPA’s proposed new rule for power plants, and we will once again stand ready to lead the fight against federal violations,” he said in a statement.

Some environmental groups have also criticized carbon capture technology, arguing that it makes more sense to switch to wind, solar and other clean energy sources that don’t cause pollution in the first place.

Like the proposed regulations governing emissions and methane from tailpipes and methane from oil and gas facilities, the power plant rules would have to go through a comment period. public and is not likely to be finalized and implemented until next year.

The Biden administration is racing to implement a trio of proposed regulations before Republicans have a chance to invalidate them if they take control of Congress in 2024. Under the Congressional Review Act, a The newly elected National Assembly in November could go back and overturn the agency’s regulations that were finalized within 60 days of the previous Congress.

The crackdown on emissions from cars, oil and gas facilities and power plants comes as Mr Biden prepares to announce his re-election bid, when he will need the young voters who helped him win the White House in 2020.

At a virtual meeting on Thursday with leaders of other major economies, Biden said he would ask Congress for $500 million to fight deforestation in the Amazon. On Friday, he signed an executive order established the White House Office of Environmental Justice and required every federal agency to develop a plan to address the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change on tribal and minority communities.

“Since I became president, I have literally flown over thousands of acres of land that has been burned by wildfires because of environmental changes,” he told environmental activists at a ceremony in the Garden. Hong, where he signed the decree. “I have seen too many communities become wrecked by more and more frequent and intense storms. It is an existential threat to our nation and literally to the world.”

However, utilities have complained that any policy forcing them to install carbon capture technology would be too expensive, increasing energy costs for consumers.

ONE report for 2021 by a group of 600 global investors, including BlackRock, State Street Global Advisors and other leading shareholders of U.S. investor-owned utility companies, said the high cost of carbon capture” making it a risky and potentially expensive decarbonization strategy.”

But some experts say the conditions around carbon capture technology are changing.

Once considered a hoax by many, the technology has matured. The Biden administration is investing billions of dollars in research and demonstration projects to advance it further. And while there are only about 40 power plants with equipment worldwide, that number is growing, albeit slowly. Calpine Corporation, one of the country’s largest producers of electricity from natural gas, is build huge carbon sequestration and capture facilities for its generators in Deer Park, Texas.

The Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives to speed adoption. The law increased existing federal tax credits for electric utilities that capture carbon dioxide pollution from $85 to $135 per ton of carbon dioxide, from $30 to $50. That could translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the big energy companies.

“Until now, the power industry has not seen construction as economic,” said Carrie Jenks, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law program at Harvard. “But IRA incentives really reduce costs and make it economically viable. We are seeing companies that want to build.”


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