Mixed Reaction to EPA New Carbon Pollution Standards for Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

The announcement a few days ago by the EPA of proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants has drawn mixed reactions.

Source: EHS Today | Published on May 17, 2023

Fossil fuels and insurers

The announcement a few days ago by the EPA of proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants has drawn mixed reactions.

The National Association of Manufacturers released a statement saying the standard was a grave risk to both the U.S. economy and families. Here is the statement from the organization’s Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Brandon Farris.

“Manufacturing in America is cleaner and more sustainable than ever, and the power generation sector has been making historic strides in bringing zero-emissions sources online. Even as that trend continues, this proposed regulation will prove unfeasible. With nearly 60% of our nation’s energy generated from natural gas and coal, this will either require deployment of still nascent technologies at an impractical pace or force those plants to shut down entirely. With the many threats to global energy security, that is a grave risk to our economy and to our families. The U.S. cannot afford to shut down more than half of our power generation and grind our economy to a halt. The NAM looks forward to working with the administration to ensure emissions standards protect public health while allowing manufacturers to continue pioneering technologies to make our air even cleaner and our climate even healthier.”

Another group, the National Resource Defense Council is in favor of the standard but wants to see more. They released the following statement:

While this proposal is a vitally important first step, the EPA can do more, and faster. One clear opportunity for securing greater emissions reductions is setting limits for more existing gas plants by lowering the unit size and capacity factor thresholds. And the EPA can—and should—adjust the timelines for compliance across all three categories to require emissions reductions sooner.

The climate crisis is urgent—every ton of carbon pollution we reduce in the near term will help reduce the impacts we face and the suffering we must endure. The power industry has the tools it needs to cut its outsize contribution to our country’s carbon footprint. This proposal, with a few improvements, will ensure fossil power plants reduce their emissions commensurate with the best tools available.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association had this to say about the proposal, in an article in The New York Times. “This proposal will further strain America’s electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation,” said Jim Matheson, president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which operates power plants serving the nation’s least developed communities.

But the White House insists that the standard “will protect public health, reduce harmful pollutants and deliver up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades.”

The administration says the proposal for coal and new natural gas power plants would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042, which is equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, roughly half the cars in the United States.

The White House predicts that in 2030 alone, the proposed standards would prevent:

  • approximately 1,300 premature deaths;
  • more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits;
  • more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks;
  • 38,000 school absence days;
  • 66,000 lost workdays.