Thursday, June 1, 2023

E.P.A. Proposes First Limits on Climate Pollution From Existing Power Plants

Coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is in decline — no new coal plants have been built in the United States in the last decade. In the same time frame, the cost of wind and solar power has plummeted, and electricity generation from wind turbines and solar panels has more than tripled. Wind now generates more than 10 percent of the nation’s electricity, and solar power now generates about 3 percent and is growing fast. As a result, planet-warming pollution from power plant smokestacks has dropped by about a 25 percent in the last decade, absent any direct regulation.

In recent years, many large electric utilities have announced targets to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045 or 2050.

“Our emissions continue to go down as a sector, and we predict that will continue to happen regardless of the rule,” said Emily Fisher, executive vice president of clean energy and general counsel at the Edison Electric Institute, an organization that lobbies on behalf of investor-owned electric utilities.

Lawyers and lobbyists with the Edison Electric Institute have met with E.P.A. officials at least two dozen times over the past two years to discuss the climate rule and other power plant regulations.

But some lobbyists say that despite that input, the new rules will push the industry to do more than it can achieve.

“There is a lot of consternation that those targets are as fast as they can go,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a lawyer who represents fossil fuel companies and electric utilities with the firm Bracewell L.L.P. “They didn’t just come up with those targets on the back of an envelope. If the idea is to go significantly faster than that, then companies are going to have real concerns.”

Lissa Lynch, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, said that electric utilities had complained about new clean air regulations for decades but had ultimately managed to comply. “The industry always claims they are impossible to meet, cost too much money, threaten reliability and the economy,” she said of the regulations. “Ultimately they go on to innovate and comply, often well in advance of the deadlines that are set.”

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