CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed what it called a "common-sense" requirement that any new coal-fired power plants include equipment to control their greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said the proposal, if finalized, would "protect the planet for our children and move us into a new era of American energy"
"Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies - and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."
The proposal drew harsh criticism from industry, congressional Republicans and coal-state Democrats, while environmental groups praised EPA's move as a landmark action but also said the agency should have done more.
"This rule, while not perfect, signals that more of our energy future needs till be met by clean, affordable and reliable sources of energy," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "At the same time, EPA also must focus on the main source of power plant carbon emissions -- existing coal-fired plants, many of them more than 50 years old, which are responsible for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., blasted the EPA proposal as "wrong-headed" and said he would "fight it every step of the way." The National Mining Association said the proposal "is the latest convoy in EPA's regulatory train wreck that is rolling across America, crushing jobs and arresting our economy recovery at every step."
Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said that while the coal industry "has long protested such standard, refusing to modernize and resisting newer technologies," the EPA proposal "will not only provide public health benefits, but also should spark innovation."
Under the EPA proposal, new power plants would generally have to limit their carbon dioxide emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity generated.
Coal-fired power plants could meet that by using carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology to cut their carbon dioxide emissions in half, EPA said. By contrast, a natural gas-fired power plant could meet the EPA emissions limits without any additional pollution controls.