U.S. proposes to roll back emissions rule on new coal plants
(Recasts with confirmation, adds EPA comment)
By Humeyra Pamuk and Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - The Trump administration on
Thursday proposed to roll back an Obama-era rule requiring new
U.S. coal plants to slash carbon emissions, a move that could
crack open the door in coming years for new plants fired by the
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting
administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the proposal, which will
allow new coal plants to emit up to 1,900 pounds (862 kg) of
carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity.
The proposal, which is sure to be challenged by lawsuits
from environmental groups, would replace the current limit of
1,400 pounds of carbon per megawatt-hour.
"We are rescinding unfair burdens, leveling the playing
field," Wheeler said at a news conference in Washington. He
spoke alongside Harry Alford, president of the National Black
Chamber of Commerce, a long-time opponent of former President
Barack Obama's limits on carbon emissions.
Under the existing rule, new coal plants would have to burn
some natural gas, which emits less carbon, or install carbon
capture equipment or highly efficient technology that is not yet
The U.S. government lists only two major coal plants being
planned over the next four years, as the industry has been
discouraged by plentiful and less-expensive natural gas. That
could change as President Donald Trump rolls back rules meant to
curb emissions linked to global warming.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican,
applauded the EPA's proposal, saying it would help families who
work in the coal industry in his state of Kentucky. "Coal
deserves a level playing field, and that's what this White House
is trying to accomplish," McConnell said.
Myron Ebell, who led Trump's EPA transition team last year,
said Trump's policies could allow new coal plants to be built in
the next five, 10 or 15 years.
The administration says coal plants can be made to burn coal
far more efficiently. But high costs have made them uneconomic.
The regulatory roll-back comes ahead of annual U.N. climate
talks in Poland next week, where White House officials plan a
panel on coal technology.
It was unclear whether the proposal can withstand lawsuits.
Jay Duffy, a legal associate at Clean Air Task Force, said the
higher carbon emissions limit would not satisfy federal clean
air law requirements for the best available emissions
While the carbon capture equipment the Obama rule requires
is technologically feasible, it is expensive.
But Duffy said Obama's rule would eventually drive down
"If Trump is really interested in supporting coal miners,
what he should be looking at is supporting and advancing carbon
capture," said Duffy. In a future where rules on carbon
constraints are likely, "that's the only way coal survives," he
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by David Gregorio and
First Published: 2018-12-06 14:00:00
Updated 2018-12-06 21:08:55
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