Obama, EPA Refuse to Back Down on Power Plant Regulation

Last year, the Obama Administration proposed a dramatic plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The coal-fired power industry, which is the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, was livid.

They called it the “war on coal” and vowed to block the regulations from moving forward. Environmentalists wondered if President Obama and brand-new EPA chief Gina McCarthy would stand their ground to protect American health. Today we got our answer.

The administration announced on Friday that it’s not afraid of a confrontation with the dying coal industry “and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies,” reports the New York Times.

From the official EPA press release:

Under today’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

Those are strict standards, even for today’s most advanced coal-fired power plants, which emit an average of about 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Although the fossil fuel industry will whine and complain about how unreasonable it is to expect that they not dump toxins into the air at alarming rates, the regulation is both reasonable and long overdue.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “a typical coal plant generates 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year” not to mention tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and arsenic.

A typical uncontrolled plant emits also “emits 500 tons of small airborne particles each year” and “particulate matter (also referred to as soot or fly ash) can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.”

“Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the same release. “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”

As soon as the new policy is posted to the Federal Register, the EPA will be seeking comment and information on the new proposal, including holding a public hearing, for 60 days. Please, if you enjoy breathing clean air and don’t believe the coal industry has the right to poison innocent Americans just to make a profit, consider letting them know.

Image via neutronboy

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Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Don Swanz
Don Swanz2 years ago

SARAH H: IMO being able to breath is a heck of a lot more important to me than jobs; which are lost and created daily. Don and I CAN! :-))

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

The EPA is killing much needed jobs!

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

Don S,
I was looking at a graph which displayed natural gas in terms of 2013 prices (inflation adjusted), which were closer to the 1990s. In actual price, 2013 prices are about twice as high. We were talking past each other. However, three price spikes have occurred between the 1990s and now. The first spike did occur earlier in 2001, my mistake (I was looking at the longer term graph first, and made the errant assumption that the 2001 spike coincided with 9/11). Compared to the past 15 years, the last 5 have been rather stable, and given the estimated reserves, I cannot see prices rising to the previous levels soon.


The EPA has revised its proposed regulations last week with the following statement:


The statement is long, and rather boring (as most government proclamations tend to be). On page 16 this statement can be found: "Therefore, based on the analysis presented in Chapter 5 of the RIA, the EPA projects that this proposed rule will result in negligible CO2 emission changes."
This is reiterated on page 356. On Page 64 (and mentioned frequently throughout), the EPA states, "The EIA modeling also projects that few, if any, new coal-fired EGUs would be built in this decade and that those that are built would have CCS." One of the reason mentioned (besides new regs) is the competitiveness of natural gas. Indeed,

Don Swanz
Don Swanz2 years ago

GREAT WHITE E: Nice hearing from you again. Don and I CAN! :-))

Don Swanz
Don Swanz2 years ago


1. I don't know where in the world you are obtaining your date - I'd like to know - but every chart that I've seen shows that commercial natural gas prices are almost twice as high now than they were in the 90's but about 20% cheaper than in the 00's. Additionally, no chart that I've seen showed prices "spiking" after 9/11.

2. Next, how about providing a source for the statement that you posted: "At least the EPA is forthright in stating that these regulations will have no effect on CO2 levels. It is just an attack on coal-fired plants." I know that it is not in this Post. Don and I CAN! :-))

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

At least the EPA is forthright in stating that these regulations will have no effect on CO2 levels. It is just an attack on coal-fired plants.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

Natural gas is selling at a similar price as the entire 90s. The price spike up after 9/11 and Middle East turmoil. Current estimated reserves suggest that prices will remain at this level for well over a decade. Left alone, coal may fail on its own merits.

Pamela W.
Pamela W.2 years ago

Really gotta LOVE your President ...... and that was NOT sarcasm - He's great !!

Don Swanz
Don Swanz2 years ago

DAN B: Gas is cheap now; but I guarantee you that it will not remain that way. Check the history of gas prices over the last two (2) decades.

Now her's a really dumb and stupid idea from my note pad. How about if all major corporations; in addition to cutting their CE0's pay in half, did not pay any dividends for one (1) year and used this saved $$$$ to update and modify their organizations to be more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly? Don and I CAN!