The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its proposals for limiting carbon emissions from new power plants earlier this week.
The Clean Air Act standard, which only applies to new plants and not existing ones, allows the burning of coal but with strong limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
In the US, there is currently no national limit on the amount of carbon pollution that a power station can emit.
But thanks to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gas emissions from power stations endanger Americans’ health, the EPA is legally able to set a limit on emissions.
The proposed standard, which EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson says is taking a “common-sense step to reduce pollution”, will limit new power plants to emissions of 1000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt of electricity produced.
The limits will cut greenhouse gas emissions from new coal plants by around half, to levels similar to those of gas-fired power stations, most of which will meet the new standard.
However, the new standard will not apply to plants that have already been permitted and will start construction within the year.
Nor will the standard cover biomass plants and new coal-fired plants that promise to install carbon capture measures will also be exempt for ten years.
But despite the limitations, the proposed standard is a first small step to pushing energy generators towards cleaner technology.
“Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow,” Jackson commented at a press conference on Tuesday. “We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.”
For further information:
US senator proposes national clean energy standard (5-Mar)
Obama outlines “all-out” energy strategy in State of the Union Address (25-Jan)
US appeals court delays EPA air pollution regulations (4-Jan)
US EPA to relax air pollution rules for power plants (7-Oct 2011)
29 March 2012