Note: A nearly identical version of this column appeared last week in Forbes Online. I am reposting it here with many additional hyperlinks so that readers may more easily access the evidence supporting my conclusions.
The November 2012 elections ensure that President Obama’s war on coal will continue for at least two more years. The administration’s preferred M.O. has been for the EPA to ‘enact’ anti-coal policies that Congress would reject if such measures were introduced as legislation and put to a vote. Had Gov. Romney won the presidential race and the GOP gained control of the Senate, affordable energy advocates could now go on offense and pursue a legislative strategy to roll back various EPA global warming regulations, air pollution regulations, and restrictions on mountaintop mining. But Romney lost and Democrats gained two Senate seats.
Consequently, defenders of free-market energy are stuck playing defense and their main weapon now is litigation. This is a hard slog because courts usually defer to agency interpretations of the statutes they administer. But sometimes petitioners win. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), a regulation chiefly targeting coal-fired power plants. The Court found that the CSAPR exceeded the agency’s statutory authority. Similarly, in March, the Court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority when it revoked a Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in Logan County, West Virginia.
A key litigation target in 2013 is EPA’s proposal to establish greenhouse gas (GHG) “new source performance standards” (NSPS) for power plants. This so-called carbon pollution standard is not based on policy-neutral health or scientific criteria. Rather, the EPA contrived the standard so that commercially-viable coal plants cannot meet it. The rule effectively bans investment in new coal generation.
We Can Win This One
Prospects for overturning the rule are good for three main reasons. [click to continue…]
Today (June 25th) is the deadline for submitting comments on the EPA’s proposed Carbon Pollution Standard Rule, which will establish first-ever New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuel electric generating units.
The proposed standard is 1,000 lbs of CO2 per megawatt hour (MWh). The EPA claims that 95% of all new natural gas combined cycle power plants can meet the standard — maybe, maybe not. One thing is clear — no conventional coal power plant can meet the standard. Even today’s most efficient coal power plants emit 1,800 lbs CO2/MWh on average.
A coal power plant equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology could meet the standard, but the EPA acknowledges that CCS is prohibitive, raising the cost of generating electricity by as much as 80%.
So what the proposal is really telling the electric utility industry is this: If you want to build a new coal-fired power plant, you’ll have to build a natural gas combined cycle plant instead. Not surprising given President Obama’s longstanding ambition to “bankrupt” anyone who builds a new coal power plant.
In a comment letter submitted today on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I recommend that the EPA withdraw the proposed regulation for the following reasons: [click to continue…]
Bait-and-switch is one of the oldest tricks of deceptive advertising. The used-car dealer “baits” you onto the lot with an ad promising low interest payments on the car of your dreams. When you get there, the dealer regretfully informs you the car has already been sold. But, no, you haven’t wasted your time, because he’s got this other great car — the “switch” — which has so many superior features and it will only cost you a little more per month.
An even less ethical variant of this tactic is employed in politics. Party A in a negotiation gives an assurance or promise to obtain Party B’s support for a law or regulation. Party A then reneges on the deal once the policy is on the books. EPA’s recently proposed “Carbon Pollution Standard” Rule is a posterchild for this tactic. [click to continue…]
Yesterday, EPA proposed its first-ever “carbon pollution standard rule” for power plants. The rule would establish a new source performance standard (NSPS) for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuel electric generating units (EGUs). The proposed standard is an emission rate of 1,000 lbs CO2 per megawatt hour. About 95% of all natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants already meet the standard (p. 115). No existing coal power plants do. Even today’s most efficient coal plants emit, on average, 1,800 lbs CO2/MWh (p. 134). EPA is effectively banning investment in new coal electric generation.
Like the rest of EPA’s greenhouse agenda, the proposed rule is an affront to the Constitution’s separation of powers. Congress never voted to prohibit the construction of new coal power plants. Indeed, Congress declined to pass less restrictive limits on coal electric generation when Senate leaders pulled the plug on cap-and-trade. Congress should reassert its constitutional authority, overturn the rule, and rein in this rogue agency. [click to continue…]
Greenwire (subscription required) reports that EPA has sent its proposed regulation establishing greenhouse gas (GHG) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new and modified power plants to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
The stringency of the regulation is unknown to outsiders at this time. Environmental lobbyists hope EPA will set the bar so high that only natural gas power plants, or coal-fired plants equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, can comply. Industry representatives want EPA to propose separate standards for coal- and gas-fired electric generating units reflecting the different carbon intensities of coal and natural gas.
No previous NSPS has ever required new power plants to use natural gas rather than coal, and none has ever required modified plants to switch from coal to natural gas. Industry representatives contend that Congress never intended the NSPS program to block construction of coal power plants or mandate fuel switching. They’re right. [click to continue…]