May 2012

Volume 21, Number 5

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EPA: New Coal Plants Must Limit Greenhouse Gases

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By Erin Weaver

Releasing more than 1,700 pounds of carbon dioxide for every MWh of electricity produced, coal-fired power plants account for nearly 40% of U.S. carbon pollution. While some states limit this pollution, there are no federal carbon emissions standards for power plants. A new standard proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would limit new plants’ CO2 emissions to 1,000 pounds per MWh. Existing power plants are unaffected, as are any under construction in the next year.

Coal produces about half of the country’s electricity while creating 80% of total CO2 emissions from U.S. power generation. Most natural gas plants already meet the new standard; EPA calls natural gas combustion “the technology of choice for new and planned power plants.” Anticipated since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases fall under the Clean Air Act (see “EPA Declares Greenhouse Gases a Threat to Humans,” EBN Jan. 2010), the regulations are subject to public comment.

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April 30, 2012