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Focus on Regulation

EPA Proposes New Standards for GHG Emissions from New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units

Acting on its 2009 finding that greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) endanger both the public health and welfare, EPA has released a proposed new source performance standard (NSPS) rule for carbon dioxide (CO2), a GHG, from new fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs), including fossil-fuel boilers, integrated gasification combined cycle units, and stationary combined cycle turbine units that generate electrical power for sale.  The proposed NSPS rule would only apply to new fossil fuel-fired (coal, oil, pet coke, gas) EGU sources greater than 25 megawatts (MW).  EPA is not proposing any standards for modifications to existing sources, and is exempting certain “transitional sources” and natural gas simple cycle turbines.  The proposed NSPS rule would require new fossil fuel-fired EGUs to meet an output-based emission standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per MW hour (lb CO2/MWh) over a rolling 12-month period.  EPA is taking comments on a range of emissions standards from 950 lb CO2/MWh to 1,100 lb CO2/MWh.  

EPA’s 1,000lb CO2/MWh standard is proposed pursuant to section 111 of the Clean Air Act and is based on the performance of natural gas combined-cycle technology.  It is not a standard that can be achieved today by any coal-fired burning power plant.  Nonetheless, EPA projects that EGUs affected by the proposed rule will be able to comply by employing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology assuming a 50% CO2 capture rate.  EPA states that CCS is not commercially available today.  For this reason, EPA proposes a 30-year compliance averaging period against which to measure compliance for coal generating units so long as the unit meets an immediate performance standard of 1,800 lb CO2/MWh (gross) on a 12-month annual average basis, i.e., a “supercritical” efficiency level.

On May 4, 2012, EPA announced that two public hearings would be held on the proposed rule and that the comment period would be extended to June 25, 2012.  The public hearings will be held on May 24, 2012, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, in Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL:

May 24: Chicago, Ill.
Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building
Lake Michigan Room (12th floor)
77 West Jackson
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 886-9404

May 24: Washington, DC
Ariel Rios East Building
Room 1153
1301 Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-1661

Written comments should be submitted electronically, by June 25, 2012 and identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2011–0660Instructions for submitting written comments are available here.  More information on the proposed rule is available at EPA’s website.