Udall endorses carbon rule for new power plants

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenMarch 30, 2012
In a move that could spell the end of additional coal-fired power plants in the United States, the Obama administration proposed new rules Tuesday to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall
Photo by Troy Hooper

National standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants have been a long time coming as there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution that either new or existing facilities can currently emit. Five years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act, and in 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency determined that carbon pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, said he believes the landmark carbon emissions standards would incentivize the use of modern pollution control technologies and encourage the use of cleaner-burning fuels.

"Moving our country toward a clean energy future will help stabilize energy prices, create new jobs, diversify the energy sources on which we depend, and make our country more secure," Udall said. "It is crucial that we begin to reduce our dependence on the dirty fuels of the last century and curb the effects of climate change. The benefits of clean air are numerous and profound to Colorado's public health and economy. While I would prefer to see a legislative solution that includes a comprehensive energy policy for America and focuses on clean, domestic sources of energy, the proposed standard can serve as an important backstop to congressional inaction and put a price on carbon pollution."

The issuance of draft rules for carbon emissions didn't come with quite the same fanfare as the December announcement of the EPA's final rules to control power plant mercury emissions.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson called the carbon limit "a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy.”

Power plants are reportedly responsible for 40 percent of the nation's output of carbon dioxide.

The proposed carbon standards, however, would not apply to existing power plants.

Industry groups such as the National Mining Association are already calling on Congress to spike the proposed rules, arguing they will lead to higher costs of living for Americans.

"EPA’s proposal for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from about half the nation’s electric power supply is a poorly disguised cap-and-tax scheme that represents energy and economic policy at its worst," National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said in a prepared statement. "Higher utility bills and fewer jobs are the only certain outcomes from this reckless attempt to override Congress’s repeated refusal to enact punitive caps on carbon dioxide emissions."

Colorado's conservative congressmen — Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman — have previously pledged to vote against any climate-change legislation.

The EPA claims new natural gas plants will be able to meet the new carbon standard without adding any additional technology. But new coal plants would need to install technology that captures carbon dioxide emissions and sequesters them into the ground rather than release them into the air.

Federal officials downplayed any negative impact a carbon standard would have on industry.

"Even without today’s action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard," the EPA said in a press release. "As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard."

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