On December 6, 2018, the EPA proposed amendments to its existing rule regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new, modified and reconstructed coal-fired power plants. The existing rule, issued in October 2015 under the Obama Administration, had determined that all new coal-fired power plants must be use partial carbon capture and storage to curb their GHG emissions to comply with Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. The new proposed rule would instead require new coal-fired power plants only to employ “the most efficient demonstrated steam cycle in combination with the best operating practices” to control GHGs, and would allow them to emit 36-57% more CO2 per unit of electricity produced.
When it was issued, the Obama rule was seen as rendering it impossible to build any new coal plants, as outside analysis showed that carbon capture and storage was unlikely to be economically viable. Indeed, the Trump EPA cites “the high costs and limited geographic availability of CCS” as the “primary reason for this proposed revision.” Yet the accompanying regulatory impact analysis predicts that few, if any, new coal-fired power plants would be built even under the new rule, as falling prices of natural gas and renewables have rendered coal plants economically infeasible.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on December 20, 2018. The public comment period for the rule will close on February 19, 2019.