EPA’s latest limits draw little protest

Posted Monday, Sep. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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There are good reasons why Texas reaction was muted Friday when the Environmental Protection Agency announced restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

The caps hit hardest at new coal-fired plants, virtually requiring them to install expensive equipment to capture and sequester the large amounts of carbon dioxide produced when coal burns. Texas has 18 generating plants running on coal and is the leading source of carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott typically are quick to decry almost anything from the EPA.

But none spoke up Friday like Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who said the Obama administration is “focused on restricting American energy sources and driving up prices.”

Some explanations for Lone Star State silence:

• This was an important step for the EPA, but a bigger one awaits. The agency is expected to address carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants no later than June 1, 2014.

It’s likely that the Texas leaders will see regulations on existing plants as federal overreach.

• Even the power industry held back. The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, expressed appreciation that EPA had toned down previous proposals in response to industry recommendations.

• The new caps go easy on modern plants fueled by natural gas, which Texas has plenty of and is eager to sell.

The standards would limit new coal-fired plants to emissions of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. Existing plants average 2,249 pounds, EPA data show.

Even the most modern new coal-fired plants emit more than 1,600 pounds, according to industry estimates.

New large natural gas-fired plants would be capped at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. The current average is 1,135 pounds, but modern plants can go as low as 800 pounds.

• With natural gas prices low, few investors want to build new coal-fired power plants. Platts.com, which closely monitors power industry trends and other energy issues, lists only one coal plant proposed in Texas through 2016, along with 23 proposed natural gas plants and 13 using wind or solar energy.

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