The Biden administration unveiled a set of proposals on Thursday aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector, one of the main sources of the country’s carbon footprint.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the proposals, which include new standards for coal and new natural gas fired power plants, would result in reductions of more than 600 million metric tons of CO2 pollution – equivalent to taking roughly half of U.S. cars off the road – through 2042, and deliver $85 billion in climate and health benefits.
The EPA added that the rules would also have only a “negligible impact” on electricity prices, and provided sufficient lead times for companies and utilities to make investment and planning decisions.
The proposals would contribute significantly to the achievement of U.S. climate goals, set by the Biden administration, which include a commitment to achieve net zero emissions economy by 2050, and an interim target to reduce economy-wide emissions by 50-52% in 2030. The administration has also set a goal to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. The power sector accounts for roughly 25% of U.S. GHG emissions.
The proposals would require more CO2 emissions controls to be put in place at fossil fuel-fired power plants starting in 2030, with requirements becoming more stringent over time. Proposals include the use of technologies including carbon capture and storage (CCS), the use of low-GHG hydrogen co-firing at natural gas plants, and natural gas co-firing at existing coal plants.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said:
“EPA’s proposal relies on proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future. Alongside historic investment taking place across America in clean energy manufacturing and deployment, these proposals will help deliver tremendous benefits to the American people—cutting climate pollution and other harmful pollutants, protecting people’s health, and driving American innovation.”
While the new rules would likely contribute significantly towards the achievement of the U.S.’ climate goals, they will likely face significant political pushback and legal challenges. The Supreme Court, for example, ruled last year that the EPA did not have the authority to regulate limits to carbon emissions from coal plants, in a challenge against the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan.
Following the EPA’s release of its new proposals, Republican U.S. Senator John Barrasso, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said:
“Last year, the Supreme Court threw out the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overreaching mandates on power plant emissions. The Court rightfully confirmed Congress, not the EPA, has the authority to create environmental policy. Nothing has changed since then to give the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats at the EPA this authority.”
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has also pledged to oppose the proposals, releasing a statement prior to the EPA announcement warning that he “will oppose all EPA nominees until they halt their government overreach,” citing concerns about the rules’ impact on energy security and reliability.
Manchin said that the proposals “would impact nearly all fossil-fueled power plants in the United States, which generate about 60 percent of our electricity, without an adequate plan to replace the lost baseload generation. This piles on top of a broader regulatory agenda being rolled out designed to kill the fossil industry by a thousand cuts.”