- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The EPA on Nov. 14 released a landmark decision that could halt plans for any new coal-fired power plants that don't have an answer for controlling CO2 releases.
The agency's appeals panel, acting on an appeal by the Sierra Club, rejected a permit by EPA Region 8 for a new coal-fired plant in Utah because it did not stipulate the plant achieve best achievable control technology (BACT) for controlling the alleged greenhouse gas.
Sierra Group representatives said the decision could affect dozens of planned coal-fired power plants across the country. The EPA has not said that all new coal power plants would need to plan for cutting carbon, but did mention in the decision that the ruling could have far-reaching effects for the coal power industry. "The Board recognizes that this is an issue of national scope that has implications far beyond this individual permitting proceeding," the agency wrote in its decision.
About 25 coal plants are currently under construction across the United States, according to a Sierra Club release. Another 20 projects have been permitted or are near construction and more than 60 have been announced or are in the early stages of development, the report said.
Industry groups agreed with the environmentalists that this would likely cause delays for future coal-power plants, and that such delays could put the plants in danger of having to meet speculated tougher controls under President-elect Obama and a Democratic Congress. However, they disagreed with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups about the decision's ultimate effect, noting that the decision was more akin to a football "punt," by a regulatory panel looking for the agency to make a final declaration on requiring new plants to have carbon BACT.
According to Reuters, coal-fired power plants generate about half of U.S. power, and are responsible for a third of the country's CO2 pollution, a similar footprint to those of motor vehicles.
Ed Note: In a previous version of this article, and in newsletter editions, the author mistakenly referred to the wrong regulatory program. The ruling was made on Best Achievable Control Technology (BACT), not Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) as was previously stated. We apologize for the mistake in our reporting.