EPA ‘to propose strongest emission limits yet’

25 April 2023

The Biden Administration is widely expected to propose stringent requirements on utilities to reduce carbon emissions from fossil-fired power plants, according to various published reports in the USA. The Biden Administration aims to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade and to have an emissions-free power sector by 2035.

The proposals would be in the form of a transformational approach by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and would introduce the strictest emissions regulations on generation plants in US history. Requirements would focus on emissions control by deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology.

The move is expected to plunge the Biden Administration into political and legal struggles that could make their way to the US Supreme Court. The court ruled in June 2022 that the EPA could not put state-level caps on CO2 by steering states away from carbon-emitting fuel sources like coal and natural gas. That directive would have to come from central government, ie from Congress.

One report quoted sources familiar with the expected proposals that the rules would require generators to capture most of their carbon emissions rather than letting them enter the atmosphere, by the deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS). No U.S. commercial power plants currently employ CCUS, but the EPA is said to view it as ready to be used widely, having been adequately demonstrated during testing, and retrofitable by existing plants. Expanded incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act are expected to dramatically bring down the cost of CCUS, providing companies $85 for every ton of captured CO2 through the 45Q tax credit, up from $50 a ton.

EPA is expected to release the two power plant Rules during the next couple of weeks, according to a report by the news agency Politico. One rule would target existing coal- and natural-gas-fired plants, and the other would address new gas plants.

Again according to the Politico report, gas plants would be given a deadline by which they must begin using carbon capture systems or meet an alternative standard based on hydrogen. But not every coal- and gas-fired power plant would have to meet the strictest standards under the proposed rules. For example, coal plants that are scheduled to retire and gas plants that run at times of peak demand would face more relaxed mandates.

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