Latest Buzz...


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

On Sept. 20, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its first steps under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Power plants are the largest stationary source of carbon pollution in the United States: about one third of all greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. comes from the generation of electricity by power plants.
New South Wales bush fires occur more frequently
New South Wales bush fires occur more frequently

In the Clean Air Act, Congress recognized that the opportunity to build emissions controls into a source’s design is greater for new sources than for existing sources, so it laid out different approaches to set the two types of standards. Today EPA is proposing carbon pollution standards for power plants built in the future and is kicking off the process of engagement with states, stakeholders, and the public to establish carbon pollution standards for currently operating power plants.

The proposed standards for new power plants are the first uniform national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be allowed to emit. The proposed standards are in line with investments in clean energy technologies that are already being made in the power sector. The proposal ensures that the nation will continue to rely on a diverse mix of energy sources, including efficient natural gas, advanced coal technology, nuclear power, and renewable energy like wind and solar.


  • Carbon pollution stays in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change, which is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. 
  •  Unchecked carbon pollution leads to long-lasting changes in our climate, such as rising global temperatures; rising sea level; changes in weather and precipitation patterns; and changes in ecosystems, habitats and species diversity. 
  • Public health risks include more heat waves and drought; worsening smog (also called ground-level ozone pollution); increasing the intensity of extreme events, like hurricanes, extreme precipitation and flooding; and increasing the range of ticks and mosquitoes, which can spread disease such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. 
  •  Our most vulnerable citizens, including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease and people living in poverty are most at risk from the impacts of climate change.


  • This proposal will protect public health and address climate change while ensuring reliable, affordable, and clean power for American businesses and families. 
  • This standard ensures that power companies investing in new fossil fuel-fired power plants – which often operate for more than 40 years – will use technologies that limit emissions of harmful carbon pollution. 
  • This new proposal sets standards for different types of new power plants while maintaining a similar level of environmental protection. It reflects recent trends in the electric power sector and additional information, including the more than 2.5 million comments submitted by the public on the April 2012 proposal. 
  • The proposed standards will put national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that new power plants, built in the future, are allowed to emit. The standards will minimize carbon pollution by guaranteeing reliance on advanced technologies like efficient natural gas units and efficient coal units implementing partial carbon capture and storage (CCS). 
  • EPA’s rule reflects an ongoing trend in the power sector—a shift toward cleaner power plants that take advantage of modern technologies that will become the next generation of power plants. EPA’s rule ensures this progress continues. 
  • Because these standards are in line with current industry investment patterns, these standards are not expected to have notable costs and are not projected to impact electricity prices or reliability. 
  • U.S. Department of Energy, EPA and industry projections indicate that new power plants that are built over the next decade or more would be expected to meet these standards even in the absence of the rule.

Further reading -

U.S. Department of Energy. Coal gasification offers one of the most versatile and clean ways to convert coal into electricity, hydrogen, and other valuable energy products.

Basin Electric, through its for-profit subsidiary, Dakota Gasification Company (Dakota Gas) owns and operates the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. The Synfuels Plant is the only commercial-scale coal gasification plant in the U.S. that manufactures natural gas. It is located five miles northwest of Beulah, North Dakota.

The Coal Can Do That article "Coal-to-Gas is Off-the-Shelf Energy Solution" from February 2009 by Dr. Frank Clemente.

"EPA FACT SHEET: Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants"

Coal and Natural Gas power plants