Business, Economics and Jobs

EPA limits greenhouse gas emissions at power plants for the first time


Smothers from cooling towers of the coal-fired power plant of Scholven in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany, are pictured on January 16, 2012. According to its operator E.ON, the company's largest power plant has a total net output of 2200 megawatts and is one of the largest hard-coal fired power plants in Europe.



The United States Environmental Protection Agency issued its first limits today on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Bloomberg News reported

Under the rule, a power plant cannot emit more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced, the Washington Post reported today. The natural gas industry should have no problem complying with the standards. The average natural gas plant emits about 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt. But most coal plants go over the limit, emitting an average of 1700 pounds per megawatt, the Post reported on Monday

The rule does not apply to old, existing plants. But under the rule, new coal-fired plants will have to use carbon controls. For some coal companies, that's an expense that they don't think is worth it. 

“This standard effectively bans new coal plants,” the head of a lobbying firm that represents utility companies told the Post.

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Power plants emit the largest source of CO2 linked to climate change, Bloomberg News reported

"We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a press release.

The coal industry has already suffered competition from cheap natural gas in recent years. In the last few years, the portion of US electricity fired by coal has slipped from 50 to 45 percent, the Guardian reported.  

The EPA does not need approval from congress to create new emissions rules, making the agency the Obama administration's main tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Guardian said. 

In a statement, environmental group the National Resources Defense Council celebrated the new rules. 

"These historic safeguards are critical to ensuring a cleaner future for American communities," the non-profit said