EPA announces new carbon pollution rules

Sarah Gardner Mar 27, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: To the long, long list of things Democrats and Republicans already disagree on, we can now add today’s proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today the EPA said it wants to put the first ever federal limits on how much carbon dioxide can come from new power plants. It’s been a while in coming; the EPA’s been thinking about it ever since it declared CO2 a dangerous pollutant back in 2009.

Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner reports from the Sustainability Desk.

Sarah Gardner: The new emissions rules don’t affect existing coal plants or even coal plants already in the works, but the standards are strict enough that they effectively limit any future fossil fuel plants in this country to either natural gas or so-called “clean coal,” which is still unproven and costly.

Ian Bowles is former Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts.

Ian Bowles: These rules, as well as some smoke stack emissions rules, is going to really curtail the future growth of coal plants.

But Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton official, says in many ways, the new EPA rules are trailing the marketplace.

Paul Bledsoe: Low natural gas prices have meant that very few coal plants are being built and very few are expected to be built for the next 10 years in any event. So in a sense, this rule is simply reinforcing current market conditions.

One clean air activist today declared that “Old King Coal” was “teetering toward life support.” Not quite. Americans still get 45 percent of their electricity from about 300 coal plants around the country.

And Big Coal’s pushing to export more, says analyst Charles Blanchard at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Charles Blanchard: So they would love, the coal companies would love to get that Power River Basin coal out to China and Asia, where demand is going to continue to grow.

Coal companies are already urging Congress to outlaw the new EPA rules, calling them a “poorly disguised cap and tax scheme.”

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.