David Roberts at Grist has an excellent article about EPA regulations coming down the pipeline that deal with pollutants from coal(besides CO2). As Roberts points out, the Bush Administration essentially did nothing over EPA regulation of coal pollution for 8 years, and Lisa Jackson and her EPA are playing catch up. The impact of the regulations will decrease coal usage, help clean up the air around predominantly low-income communities, and increase the price of coal enough to advantage cleaner burning sources of energy.
Below is the summary of the two rulings coming down, please check out David’s article for a detailed explanation.
1. National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs)
By March of next year, EPA will release (court-mandated) new standards governing hazardous pollutants like mercury and acid gases under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. These standards have been a looong time coming. (Frank O’Donnell tells the tale; see also “The Hidden Human and Environmental Costs of Regulatory Delay” from the Center for Progressive Reform.) Two significant things about them:
- The standards apply to all coal-fired power plants, old as well as new.
- These are MACT — maximum achievable control technology — standards, which means all plants will have to match the performance of the top-performing 12 percent. There are some options with mercury, but with acid gases that basically means installing wet scrubbers, which are extremely expensive. All power plants must be in compliance by 2015, which is a fairly short window.
Note: Natural-gas power plants emit no HAPs — no mercury, no acid gases. Obviously regulations on HAPs will differentially advantage gas.
2. The Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR)
The recently released CATR regulates sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). It’s designed to protect states (mostly Eastern states) from pollution that blows across state lines. EPA says the rule will reduce power plant SO2 emissions 71 percent over 2005 levels by 2014, and NOx emissions 52 percent. CATR is a revision of the Bush administration’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), key parts of which were invalidated in court.
Note: Natural-gas power plants