The Biden administration on Thursday announced the first regulations to limit greenhouse gas pollution from existing power plants.
The White House thus put an end to a number of climate policy measures that are unprecedented in US history.
The proposals are claimed to be designed to effectively eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the country’s electricity sector by 2040, writes the New York Times.
The regulations for power plants come in the wake of other plans to cut emissions from tailpipes by speeding up the transition to electric vehicles, reducing methane leaks from oil and gas wells and phasing out the use of a planet-warming chemical in coolants.
Along with the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which injects more than $370 billion into clean energy programs, the measures will take America’s debt, which is already incredibly high, much higher.
We are in the decisive decade for climate action, and the president has been clear about his goals in this area, we will achieve them, said Biden’s senior climate advisor Ali Zaidi in a telephone conversation with reporters on Wednesday.
The government does not mandate the use of equipment to capture carbon emissions before they leave the chimney. Rather, it sets a cap on pollution levels that power plant operators must meet.
The plan will certainly face opposition from the fossil fuel industry, power plant operators and members of Congress. It is likely to prompt an immediate legal challenge from a group of Republican attorneys general who have already sued the Biden administration to stop its nonsensical climate policies.
“This proposal will further strain America’s power grid and undermine decades of work to keep the lights on across the country,” said Jim Matheson, president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which operates power plants serving the least developed communities.
Patrick Morrisey, the Republican attorney general of West Virginia, who for the past decade has led a legal battle between several states to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), predicted that the latest proposals would not survive litigation.
“It’s not going to be sustained, it seems only designed to scare more coal plants into shutting down their production — the goal of the Biden administration,” he added.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat who has opposed many of his party’s climate policy proposals, said Wednesday that he would vote against all of Biden’s nominees for the EPA unless the administration drops that regulation.
– This administration is determined to advance its radical climate agenda and has made clear that it is determined to do everything in its power to regulate coal and gas-fired power plants out of existence, regardless of the cost to energy security and reliability, Manchin said.
West Virginia has increasingly moved to the right, with voters there supporting Donald Trump by 39 percentage points more than Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Michael Regan, administrator of the EPA, announced the proposed regulations in a speech on the campus of the University of Maryland on Thursday. The EPA chose the university environment to appeal to young climate extremists who they hope will help vote for Biden in 2024.
Every generation has its own defining challenge, one that shapes countless lives and affects the future for decades to come, and climate change is that challenge for you, Regan told the students.
We see you, we hear you and I’m sure that President Biden does too. That’s why President Biden launched the most ambitious climate agenda in US history when he took office, he added.
Many young climate activists have been furious with Biden after he approved a huge oil drilling project on pristine federal land in Alaska known as Willow. They see his actions as a betrayal of the 2020 election promise to stop new oil and gas drilling on public land.
The White House claims that the overall effect of Biden’s climate regulations and legislation, in the form of reduced emissions, outweighs any environmental damage that the Willow project will cause.
According to the White House, burning oil drilled at the Willow site will release an estimated 280 million tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide. The new rules for power plants will reduce emissions by 617 million tonnes between 2028 and 2042, according to the EPA.
According to climate scientists, this is what is required of all the major industrialised countries to prevent the global average temperature from reaching 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Each of these many regulations from the EPA contributes to the overall picture that is necessary to steer us away from the worst climate disaster, says Dallas Burtraw, economist at Resources for the Future, an “impartial” research organisation that focuses on energy and environmental policy.
The EPA said the proposed regulations are designed to give industry flexibility. For example, coal-fired power plants already scheduled to be decommissioned before 2032 may not need to install new pollution controls such as carbon capture technology.
About a quarter of coal-fired power plants in operation are already slated to shut down by 2029, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Although the proposed rules would increase costs for power plant operators, the EPA estimates that curbing smokestack pollution would provide a net economic benefit of up to $85 billion by 2042 through improved public health resulting from lower levels of soot and sulphur dioxide, which are also emitted from coal power plants.
By 2030, the proposed standards would prevent about 1,300 premature deaths, more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits, more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks, 38,000 school absences and 66,000 lost work days, according to the EPA.
In recent years, many major power companies have announced goals to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045 or 2050.
“Our emissions continue to decline as a sector, and we predict they will continue to do so regardless of this law,” said Emily Fisher, executive vice president for clean energy and legal director at the Edison Electric Institute, an organisation that lobbies on behalf of investor-owned electric utilities. .
But some lobbyists say the timeline proposed by the Biden administration is beyond what is achievable by the industry.
“They came up with these targets on the back of an envelope,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a lawyer who represents fossil fuel companies and electric utilities with the firm Bracewell LLP.
Almost ten years ago, Biden’s former boss, President Barack Obama, tried to regulate emissions from power plants. His administration drafted sweeping and ambitious rules that would replace coal-fired power plants with wind farms and solar panels.
This policy was never implemented. It was first blocked by the Supreme Court and later rolled back by President Trump.
Last summer, the Supreme Court confirmed that the EPA had the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, but in a limited way.
The Biden administration involved in the new power plant rule — many of whom worked on the defunct Obama rule — has tried to ensure that this time it will be implemented.