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What’s The Latest On Carbon Capture and Control?

Posted: February 6th, 2014

Author: All4 Staff 

A public hearing was held today, February 6, 2014, concerning U.S. EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from new electric utility steam generating units (EGUs), which were published by U.S. EPA in the Federal Register on January 8, 2014.  If the rule is finalized as proposed, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.  New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a more stringent limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years.  The January 8, 2014 Federal Register notice also proposes amendments to 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart Da (Standards of Performance for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units) and 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart KKKK (Standards of Performance for Stationary Combustion Turbines) which, if finalized as proposed, would add new standards for CO2 to these existing standards. 

Interested parties following the progression of this rulemaking may recall that U.S. EPA had initially proposed NSPS for emissions of CO2 from new power plants on March 27, 2012; however, when U.S. EPA failed to issue the final version of this rule within one (1) year of the original proposal, the March 27, 2012 proposed rule was terminated and U.S. EPA was required to re-propose, accept comments on, and finalize an entirely new version of the rule.  U.S. EPA’s new proposal was released as a notice of proposed rulemaking on September 20, 2013 by U.S. EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education (OEAEE) but it wasn’t officially published in the Federal Register until more recently on January 8, 2014.  Despite ongoing criticism that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is cost prohibitive and years away from commercial deployment, the latest version of the proposed rule still requires partial implementation of CCS for new coal-fired plants as the Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER).  One of the more recent arguments against the CCS requirement references the Bush-era Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), which specifically prohibits U.S. EPA from citing a technology as being “adequately demonstrated” if the technology has only been used at a facility receiving assistance under the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI), or at a facility that is receiving an advanced coal project tax credit.  The power plants with CCS that are cited in the proposed NSPS as the justification for CCS being ‘adequately demonstrated’ all received such assistance.  Therefore, critics of the proposed new rule will claim that U.S. EPA has proposed standards which are beyond its authority.  CCS critics had hoped that U.S. EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) would weigh in with a similar opinion, but the SAB has voted unanimously not to review the new rule, on the grounds that the CCS requirement falls outside the rule’s scope and that many of the scientific concerns regarding CCS may be policy and legal matters, instead of an element of the proposed rule that would be under the jurisdiction of SAB review.  To further complicate the issue, both critics and supporters of requiring CCS as a CO2 control technology are pursuing multiple legal challenges and political resolutions for their causes. 

In addition to today’s public hearing, U.S. EPA is accepting written comments on the proposed rule until March 10, 2014.  This controversial rulemaking is certain to generate a large amount of comments, and the CCS requirement will surely be a primary topic discussed at the hearing and in the comments U.S. EPA receives.  So we can expect it will be quite some time until the matter is resolved.


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