This is the first time ever that the feds are regulating new power plants, which of course is a much bigger carrot to get owners to comply with strict standards. This is very good news for the environment, assuming the lobbyists don't neuter it before implementation:
In one of the most significant reversals of Bush-era policy, the Obama administration plans [this week] to issue greenhouse pollution limits for new power plants, a major step in the fight against global warming. The new rule — which will go into effect in 2013 — confirms the end of the era of dirty coal-fired power plants:
The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits between 800 and 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.
Since the late 1990s, “natural gas has been the fuel of choice for the majority of new generating units,” and in the 2000s, wind power generation also grew significantly. With the high cost of its toxic pollution from mine to plant, coal has been losing out to cleaner sources of fuel in the electric utility sector. Although few new coal plants have been built in the last twenty years, aging plants — some built in the 1930s — still produce about 40 percent of U.S. electricity, and about 80 percent of carbon pollution from the power sector.
It's bad news for the coal industry -- and the communities which are economically dependent on coal:
The rule announced Tuesday could either derail or jump-start plans for 15 new coal-fired power plants in 10 states, depending on when they start construction. Those that break ground in the next year would be exempt from the new limit. Those that start construction later will have to eventually comply with the rule.
Existing power plants, even if they make changes that increase emissions, would not be covered at all. And new ones would have years to meet the standard and could average their emissions over three decades in order to meet the threshold.
But eventually, all coal-fired power plants would need to install equipment to capture half of their carbon pollution. While not commercially available now, the EPA projects that by 2030, no new coal-fired power plant will be built without carbon capture and storage.
The coal industry has been publicly supportive of carbon capture and sequestration (CSS), but it's likely that now that a requirement that will diminish or even destroy them is actually pending, they will not go quietly into that good night. Be prepared to fight if you want to stop climate change.