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Policy: Environment & Energy

Democrats, state AGs ready to challenge new EPA anti-coal regulation

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Beltway Confidential,EPA,Ashe Schow,Keystone XL,Energy and Environment,Coal

Democrats from coal states, along with 17 state attorneys general, are ripping the Environmental Protection Agency's forthcoming New Source Performance Standards regulation that would essentially ban all new coal-fired power plants.

The NSPS, which EPA will officially propose Sept. 20, will require new coal plants to be built with expensive carbon capture and storage technology that has only been tested at small scales.

The new rule would limit coal plant emissions to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, down from the current average of 1,700 pounds per hour, a nearly 60 percent reduction.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz refused to give details of the proposed rule during a Sept. 18 hearing, but claimed the new regulation would be “feasible” for new coal plants to achieve.

“I will say that on the basis of information that we see out in the market today — and what is being constructed and what is being contemplated — that 'Carbon Capture and Storage' technology is feasible and it is available today,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy cited four coal plants currently under construction that would meet the EPA's new rule. She also claimed that pipelines being built would allow the carbon dioxide that is captured to be used to transport oil from new sources.

The new coal plants McCarthy touted benefit from nearby oil fields, but that may not be a luxury that all new coal plants will have.

Democrats, states and industry leaders are not satisfied.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a leading voice of opposition among Senate Democrats to what he describes as President Obama's “war on coal,” said West Virginians were suffering as a result.

“They just beat the living daylights out of little West Virginia, but they sure like what we produce,” Manchin said.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also voiced opposition, saying “I am dead-set against the EPA and their scheme to issue emissions standards that would make it impossible for new coal-fired power plants to be constructed.”

Other coal-state Democrats would not release statements against the new rule, saying they would wait until the rule was officially released. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., wanted to focus on existing coal technology and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., touted coal’s efficiency.

Senate candidate Natalie Tennant, currently West Virginia’s Secretary of State, has disagreed with some of Obama administration positions on coal.

Along with Democratic opposition, 17 attorneys general have threatened a lawsuit to block the new EPA rule, saying the agency is stretching the law to achieve the new regulation.

“The way in which EPA has ‘pushed the envelope' in interpreting its legal authority ... portends a similarly aggressive and unlawful approach to the regulation of existing [power plants],” the letter said.

“EPA, if unchecked, will continue to implement regulations which far exceed its statutory authority to the detriment of the states, in whom Congress has vested authority under the Clean Air Act, and whose citizenry and industries will ultimately pay the price of these costly and ineffective regulations,” the letter continued.

Coal industry leaders are also condemning the forthcoming rule.

“Administrator McCarthy says 'we can and must embrace cutting carbon pollution as a spark for business innovation, job creation, clean energy and broad economic growth,' ” the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said Wednesday.

“The EPA's actions will do exactly the opposite. The reality is that the new EPA regulations will stop all new coal plants from being built and end development of new CCS technology in America,” ACCCE said.

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, also voiced concern over the technology required by the new rule.

“There are no demonstrated projects. There is not an administrative record upon which a rule like that can be based,” Segal said. “It doesn't meet the standards of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is clear on this point. You have to have a demonstrated technology taking into consideration both cost and energy impacts, and such a rule couldn't do it.”

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