EPA today released its final Affordable Clean Energy rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants without setting limits on the power sector's emissions.
The highly anticipated replacement for the Clean Power Plan redefines the "best system of emissions reductions" for existing power plants, directing operators to slash greenhouse gases by focusing solely on improving the efficiency of their facilities.
The agency is providing states with a list of applicable emissions control technology they can use for compliance.
The ACE rule does not establish emissions caps. Instead, it gives states broad latitude to determine how stringently they want to control power plant emissions under their jurisdiction.
The final version of ACE also jettisons a controversial plan that would have changed when the construction of efficiency improvement projects would have triggered compliance with the New Source Review program. That permitting program requires power plant operators to get preconstruction permits if a project will lead to increases in pollution (Greenwire, June 10).
The rule also extends the timeline for when states must submit their plans to more closely match the schedule required for state implementation plans under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Critics have charged the proposal does little to advance emissions reduction objectives, and the reliance on efficiency improvements alone could result in even higher power plant emissions, as more efficient plants would be used more frequently. A study published earlier this year found the rule would lead to higher CO2 emissions in 28% of coal plants.
Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force, called the rule an "unlawful life-extension program" for coal-fired plants.
"Instead of reductions in the carbon pollution required by law, the ACE rule simply checks the box of a Trump campaign promise in a futile attempt to save the coal industry by calling for investments in old, dirty coal plants that will run harder and longer, resulting in increased pollution," he said.
But industry groups are praising EPA for finalizing a rule that keeps emissions cuts "inside the fenceline" and gives states flexibility.
"The final ACE rule gives electric cooperatives the ability to adopt evolving technology and respond to market and consumer demands while continuing to serve as engines of economic development for 1 in 8 Americans," said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
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