EPA clamps down on power plants

By Jean Chemnick | 05/11/2023 05:00 AM EDT

The agency is proposing its most aggressive climate regulations for the power sector, going after existing gas- and coal-fired plants.

Geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant near Emmett, Kan.

Geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near Emmett, Kan. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

EPA has proposed its strongest-ever climate rules for the power sector, which require coal- and many gas-fired plants to capture most of their emissions.

The Biden administration’s draft rules mandate that coal units that remain in operation in 2040 begin capturing 90 percent of their carbon by 2030. Utilities can avoid most requirements by agreeing to shutter their coal units by 2032 or by 2035 if they run them only occasionally. Plants that will retire by 2040 but don’t meet those criteria would co-fire with natural gas, meaning that they would use 40 percent gas to lower their emissions.

The rules also demand that large natural gas plants that run consistently either capture 90 percent of their emissions by 2035 or burn mostly low-carbon hydrogen by 2038. Plants that run at lower capacities would face less stringent standards — or wouldn’t immediately be regulated.


“These proposals are part of a larger suite of actions that EPA has taken to fully address the climate, health and environmental burdens from power plants,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan on a call Wednesday with reporters. “Through this comprehensive approach, we’re working to fulfill EPA responsibility to protect communities from pollution while providing regulatory certainty.”

The draft rules entail the most aggressive carbon standards EPA has ever proposed for the power sector — which contributes a quarter of U.S. carbon emissions. If finalized they would regulate existing gas- and coal-fired power for the first time. EPA rules crafted under the Obama and Trump administrations were overturned by federal courts.

Once published in the Federal Register, the rules will be open for public comment for 60 days. EPA has said it plans to finalize them by June of next year.