Friday, September 20, 2013

U.S. EPA again moves, again questionably, to regulate emissions from power plants

"CCS is a technology that is feasible, and it's available today...It's been demonstrated to be effective, and its being actually constructed on real facilities today." -Gina McCarthy, U.S. EPA

There's a lot of stories on today's announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the regulations it will be introducing to control emissions from new power plants.
Here are some from my favoured sources - and my observations.

EPA moves to limit emissions of future coal- and gas-fired power plants | The Washington Post
The limits in the proposed rule will be difficult for any new coal plant to meet without incurring the substantial costs of additional technology to limit carbon dioxide output or developing new methods of cleansing emissions. The industry almost certainly will challenge it in court.
Utility companies with large coal fleets already are preparing to challenge the rule, if it is finalized, on the grounds that the agency is requiring pollution controls that have not yet been “adequately demonstrated” in the marketplace.
Joseph Stanko, head of government relations for the law firm Hunton & Williams, said the EPA’s reliance on “federally funded demonstration projects” as the base for its new standard “is illegal, it doesn’t ‘adequately demonstrate’ technology for normal use.”
NASA sent men to the moon with federal funds. That doesn’t mean municipalities and companies can do it...”
Emphasis added
Similar plans to regulated emissions were pulled last year, reportedly due to concerns about the legality due to the lack of carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) in existing facilities

Administration Presses Ahead With Limits on Emissions From Power Plants | NY Times
The limits to be unveiled Friday are a slightly more relaxed standard for coal plants than the administration first proposed in April 2012. Officials said the new plan, which came after the E.P.A. received more than 2.5 million comments from the public and industry, will give coal plant operators more flexibility to meet the limits over several years.
Still, environmental groups are likely to hail the announcement as an important step in targeting the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country... 
Industry representatives argue that such technology has not been proven on a large scale and would be extraordinarily expensive — and therefore in violation of provisions in theClean Air Act that require the regulations to be adequately demonstrated and not exorbitant in cost.
Obama rule would block new coal plants lacking carbon capture | Platts
US electricity generators would effectively be prohibited from building new coal-fired power plants that lack some type of sophisticated and expensive technology to reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions under a highly controversial climate-change rule that the Obama administration unveiled Friday.
EPA's rule would also impose the first-ever CO2 limits on the types of large combined-cycle natural gas plants that have proliferated across the US in recent years due to the cheap natural gas that has been ushered in by advances in hydraulic fracturing and the shale-drilling boom. But EPA's rule could actually be a boon for gas, as those types of combined-cycle plants -- which emit about 800 lb/MWh -- could easily meet EPA's proposed limit of 1,000 lb/MWh.
EPA's rule would also impose a 1,100 lb/MWh limit on smaller, less efficient, simple-cycle gas turbines that generators frequently use to address peak loads. Specifically, EPA's rule would apply to simple-cycle turbines that supply more than one-third of their potential electric output and more than 219,000 MWh net electric output to the grid per year.
EPA Proposes Revised Carbon Standards for New Power Plants | Power Magazine
Two limits are proposed for fossil fuel-fired utility boilers and IGCC units, depending on the compliance period that best suits the unit. Both limits require capture of only a portion of the CO2from the new unit: 1,100 lb CO2/MWh gross over a 12-operating month period, or 1,000-1,050 lb CO2/MWh gross over an 84-operating month (7-year) period...
Two standards, depending on size, are also proposed for natural gas-fired stationary combustion units. The limits proposed are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. They would require 1,000 lb CO2/MWh gross for larger units (of more than 850 mmBtu/hr) and 1,100 lb CO2/MWh gross for smaller units (of 850 mmBtu/hr or less).
The rule does not apply to units undergoing modifications or to reconstructed units, nor does it apply to liquid oil-fired stationary combustion turbine generating units or new plants that do not burn fossil fuels (that is, biomass only units). Additionally, low-capacity factor electric generating units that sell less than a third of their power to the grid are exempt from the standards.
According to the EPA, however, the newly proposed standards “are not expected to have notable costs and are not projected to impact electricity prices or reliability.”
This final statement seems likely to be remembered along with Minister of Energy George Smitherman's claims that his reckless Green Energy Act would only add 1% a year to electricity bills in Ontario and German Green Jürgen Tritten's claim that, "renewable energy wasn't going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream."

There is a comparison between Canada's regulations and the new U.S. ones: U.S. and Canada’s coal regulations side by side: Who wins? | Macleans
Of course, the fight over these regulations in the U.S. is only beginning. The coal industry will have an opportunity to make its case, as will those who would seek stronger regulations. At this point, the Canada-U.S. score is fairly even, but I’ll give the edge to Canada since our regulations are on the books and already having an impact.
That matches my opinion - I'll be curious to see if Canada's so-called ENGO's will be as condescending towards the U.S. government as they were towards Canada's when our regulations were released (see Canada's ENGO's Offensive Response to New Regulations for coal-fired generators | Cold Air )

And in a related story from Norway ...
Norway drops carbon capture plan it had likened to "Moon landing" | Reuters
Norway's outgoing centre-left government dropped plans on Friday for a costly large-scale project to capture carbon dioxide that it once compared in ambition to sending people to the Moon.
The International Energy Agency says deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is critical to reducing carbon emissions, but so far there is no full-scale commercial plant operating anywhere in the world.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose Labour Party and coalition allies lost power last week to right-wing and centrist parties in an election, said in 2007 that Norway would try to lead the world in carbon capture.
He said that heavy investments would be Norway's equivalent of a "Moon landing", referring to the U.S. Apollo project that sent Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon in 1969.
"This is one of the ugliest political crash landings we have ever seen," said Frederic Hauge of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona of the decision to drop the carbon capture plan.
My guess is new rules stay in courts until around the next election to determine the next President of the United States.
Nobody will be planning any new coal, but the year-over-year rise in coal-fired generation being experienced in 2013's U.S. might continue for some time yet, particularly if gas prices rise above levels that are very depressed by historical standards.

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