New coal-fired power plants will have to capture CO2 - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

New coal-fired power plants will have to capture CO2

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  • Many WV coal counties losing revenue

    Many WV coal counties losing revenue

    Monday, August 8 2016 10:15 AM EDT2016-08-08 14:15:05 GMT

    As Appalachian coal production continues its drastic decline, West Virginia’s coal-producing counties are  not only losing people as lifelong residents are forced to flee their homes in order to find work, but in many cases, they’re also relinquishing millions of dollars from their budgets.

    As Appalachian coal production continues its drastic decline, West Virginia’s coal-producing counties are  not only losing people as lifelong residents are forced to flee their homes in order to find work, but in many cases, they’re also relinquishing millions of dollars from their budgets.

Updated with information about other greenhouse gases and about the need for more investment in carbon capture and storage technologies. 

New coal-fired power plants will have to severely limit greenhouse gas emissions, according to long-awaited greenhouse gas rules for power plants proposed March 27 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

New fossil-fueled power plants will have to meet an emissions standard of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour generated, according to the proposed "Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units."

The proposal is "flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants," according to the agency.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007, when several states, local governments and environmental groups sued the EPA, that the agency was obligated under the Clean Air Act to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions threaten public health and welfare and, if so, to regulate them.

The agency issued an "endangerment finding" in 2009 and, when Congress's last attempt to establish a cap and trade program for the emissions failed in 2010, the agency moved forward.

In comparison with the 1,000 tons per megawatt-hour standard, the average U.S. natural gas plant emits 800 to 850 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, according to the Washington Post; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

The agency said it did not propose to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide because of lack of available data on quantity and significance of emissions and on the availability of cost-effective controls.  

New natural gas combined cycle power plant units should be able to meet the proposed standard without add]on controls, the agency wrote in a fact sheet, and nearly all of the natural gas combined cycle units built since 2005 would meet the standard.

New power plants that are designed to use coal or petroleum coke would be able to incorporate technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to meet the standard, such as carbon capture and storage, the agency wrote.

The EPA characterized the standard as one that can be met with existing technologies.

However, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions said that greater investment in carbon capture and storage is needed, and that it will work in the short-term for new opportunities to use captured carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. 

"The United States, China and India - the world's three largest greenhouse gas emitters - all have substantial coal reserves. If we can't figure out how to get the energy value out of coal with a minimal carbon footprint, we will not solve the climate problem," the organization said in a media release.

Utilities will be allowed to average emissions over 30 years, leaving expensive carbon capture technology for installation when prices have come down.

And the rule exempts plants already permitted and beginning construction within a year, as well as all existing plants.

However, the agency's 2011 Cross State Air Pollution Rule and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are contributing to electric industry announcements to retire more than 40 gigawatts of coal-fired generation over the coming several years.

The rule comes at a time when, due to low natural gas prices and to increasing regulation of power plant emissions, coal has dropped from generating more than half the nation's electricity to less than 40 percent in late 2011 and early 2012.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., condemned the proposal.

"As today's announcement shows, this EPA is fully engaging in a war on coal, even though this country will continue to rely on coal as an affordable, stable and abundant energy source for decades to come," Manchin said in a prepared statement.

"This approach relies totally on cheap natural gas and we've seen that bubble burst before. It might sound good now, but what happens if those prices go up?" he asked, adding that families and businesses would face higher prices or electricity supply disruptions.

The agency will hold public hearings on the proposal, dates and locations yet to be announced and will take comments for 60 days from the proposal's publication in the Federal Register.

The proposed rule and other information may be found on the agency's Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants web page.

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