The Obama administration’s climate-change rules targeting existing power plants will look vastly different from the ones Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy announced Friday.
The rules McCarthy unveiled last week, which apply only to plants not yet built, will require new coal-fired power plants to install costly technology called carbon, capture, and sequestration (known as CCS), which captures and stores carbon emissions underground instead of emitting the carbon into the atmosphere.
By contrast, the rules EPA is scheduled to unveil next summer will not require this technology, McCarthy told reporters at a breakfast briefing Monday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
The distinction is important but sometimes overlooked as critics of President Obama’s climate-change agenda roundly pan the entire effort as a war against coal. The rules are poised to help reduce coal’s share of the electricity pie — right now it’s about 42 percent — over the next several decades. But coal-fired power is already facing significant challenges competing with natural gas, which accounts for 50 percent fewer carbon emissions than coal and, for right now, is both cheap and plentiful.
“It is really safe to say, if you read the rule, that CCS is really effective as a tool to reduce emissions when it is designed with the facility itself,” McCarthy said in response to a question about whether EPA’s rules for existing power plants would also require CCS. “It is not seen, at least at this stage, as an add-on that could be used to put on an existing unconventional coal facility.”
CCS is considered a prohibitively costly technology that is being demonstrated in only a few places throughout the entire world and is not, for now, commercially available. McCarthy struck an optimistic tune on this issue Monday, just as she did in Friday’s announcement, which prompted several questions about the technology’s viability.
“CCS is feasible and is available,” McCarthy said Monday. “We’re not suggesting that it doesn’t add cost to coal, compared to conventional coal. But if you’re looking at coal being a viable fuel for the future over the next decades, when we believe climate change must be addressed internationally, it does create a path forward.”
EPA’s rules for the roughly 6,600 power plants operating throughout the country today, including nearly 600 coal-fired plants, will rely on a wholly different method of rule-making compared with the rules announced Friday.
“The new power plant [rule] follows what everyone thinks of the traditional approach that EPA has,” McCarthy said. “Set a standard on what science tells you to reduce and also on technology availability.”
The rule affecting existing sources, which EPA is scheduled to propose by June 2014, will not be an across-the-country technology standard.
“EPA is supposed to look at guidelines for what kind of reductions nationally are achievable, and then each state is supposed to develop its own plan, take a look at its own suite of activities, and look at what’s reasonable,” McCarthy said. As potential methods of emissions-cutting states could pursue, McCarthy cited more ambitious energy-efficiency upgrades and integrating more renewable energy into the electric grid.
“We know where the investments in clean energy are going,” McCarthy said. “Renewables are getting to a tipping point now where they make great sense.”
McCarthy also reacted to the news of a potential government shutdown, which would occur Oct. 1 unless Congress doesn’t pass a continuing resolution to keep funding the government.
“It will mean that EPA effectively shuts down with only a core group of individuals who are there in an event of a significant emergency,” McCarthy said. “If there is no budget, EPA cannot pay its employees. People will not be working; the vast majority of people will not be working. It’s safe to say I will be.”
What We're Following See More »
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.
Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”
"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."
"Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching. ... Instead of racing to fund efforts to thwart a potential health crisis, lawmakers are treating the Zika debate like regular legislation, approving Thursday the establishment of a House-Senate committee to hammer out differences in their competing bills."