Obama to Bypass Congress, Put Limits on Power Plants

EPA to make announcement today

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 20, 2013 6:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency will set limits on the greenhouse gases power plants can emit. Today, the agency will announce that new coal plants' carbon emissions must stay below 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour, while new natural gas plants must maintain emissions below 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour (rules for existing plants are due in June). Many natural gas plants already keep to the specified limit, but for coal plants, the new rules "effectively require partial carbon capture and sequestration," says a White House official.

In other words, future coal plants will have to use expensive (and, in their telling, unproven) technology to catch carbon emissions and store them underground so they don't get into the atmosphere, the Daily Beast reports; according to Politico, they'll have to sock away at least 40% of their carbon emissions. Will the environment thank us? The Beast isn't so sure: Because natural gas is cheap these days, building a new coal plant already isn't cost-effective. Still, Politico sees the Obama administration launching a key salvo in the climate-change fight—without Congress (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last night slammed Obama's "war on coal.") Court fights over the regulations are likely, especially as they set the stage for the June announcement regarding existing plants, which are the country's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

In this Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009, file photo, a flock of geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan.
In this Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009, file photo, a flock of geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
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