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New Legislation Would Vacate Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants

Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, introduced a bill on October 28, 2013 that would void the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending proposed rulemaking, regulating emissions of carbon dioxide from new coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants.  Representative Whitfield worked closely with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who will introduce the same bill in the Senate.  The legislation, if enacted, would impose restrictions on EPA’s issuance of any new proposal to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new and existing power plants, and could hinder EPA’s ability to comply with President Obama’s directive to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants by June 1, 2015.  In connection with the legislation, coal miners and coal companies rallied on Capitol Hill in protest of EPA’s current proposed regulation limiting carbon emissions at new power plants, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight panel held a hearing, entitled “EPA’s Regulatory Threat to Affordable, Reliable Energy: The Perspective of Coal Communities.”

The bill states that EPA may not issue, implement or enforce any proposed or final rule pursuant to Section 111 of the Clean Air Act that establishes a standard of performance for GHG (defined as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) emissions from a new source that is a fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating unit (EGU) unless EPA:  (1) establishes separate standards for coal and natural gas EGUs; (2) for the coal category, sets a standard that has been achieved for at least one continuous 12-month period by at least six EGUs at different plants in the U.S.; and (3) establishes a separate subcategory for new EGUs that use coal with an average heat content of 8300 or less British Thermal Units per pound (i.e., lignite coal) and sets a standard for such EGUs that has been achieved for at least one continuous 12-month period by at least three EGUs at different plants in the U.S.

The bill specifies that the EGUs used as the basis for the coal and lignite coal categories must collectively represent the operating characteristics of electric generation at different U.S. locations and EPA may not use results obtained from “a project to test or demonstrate the feasibility of carbon capture and storage technologies that has received government funding or financial assistance”).

The legislation states that any rule or guidelines addressing GHG emissions from existing, modified or reconstructed fossil fuel-fired EGUs will not be effective unless a federal law is first enacted specifying the effective date, and EPA has submitted a report to Congress containing the text of the rule, a description of its economic impacts, and the rule’s projected effects on global GHG emissions.  Finally, the legislation expressly repeals EPA’s prior proposed rulemakings establishing carbon dioxide limits for new EGUs.

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About this Author

Associate

Bethany K. Hatef* is an associate in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C., office.  She focuses her practice on occupational safety and health law and environmental law. 

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