WASHINGTON - The Biden administration will soon announce new limits on greenhouse gas emission from power plants. This could force them to capture pollution from their smokestacks. Currently, less than 20 out of 3,400 coal or gas-fired power plants in the United States use this technology.
The proposed regulation, if implemented, would be the first time that the federal government restricts carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants. These power plants generate approximately 25 percent of all the pollution that contributes to global warming produced in the United States. The regulation would apply to all future plants.
According to people familiar with the regulations, who requested anonymity because the rule had not been made public, almost all coal- and gasfired power stations would be required to reduce or capture virtually all their carbon dioxide emissions before 2040.
The fossil fuel industry and its allies in Congress will certainly oppose the proposed rule. The proposed rule is sure to face immediate legal challenges from a group Republican Attorneys General who have already sued the Biden Administration to stop other climate policy. The regulation could be weakened by a future administration.
The Office of Management and Budget at the White House is reviewing the regulation proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. It could be revised.
Maria Michalos is an E.P.A. A spokeswoman for the E.P.A. said that the agency was "moving quickly to advance standards to protect people and planet, building on momentum from President Biden’s Investing In America economic agenda including proposals to tackle carbon emissions from existing and new power plants."
The law would not require the use of expensive and nascent carbon capture technology, but rather set pollution limits that plant operators must meet. According to people familiar with this issue, they could achieve this by switching to another technology, or in the case gas plants, by switching to green hydrogen fuel, which doesn't emit carbon. The regulation, however, could result in a wider adoption of carbon-capture technology.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the majority of electricity generated in the United States was produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gases and petroleum.
The proposal follows two other Biden Administration plans to reduce tailpipe emissions by accelerating the country's switch to electric vehicles and to curb methane from oil and gas fields.
These three regulations, if implemented as proposed by the government, would reduce pollution that is responsible for global warming. The 2022 Inflation Act, which invests $370 billion in clean energy programs, would help the United States meet its pledge made by Vice President Biden to reduce the nation's carbon dioxide emissions by half by 2030 and stop them from increasing by 2050.
Scientists say that all industrialized nations must take this action to prevent global temperatures from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degree Fahrenheit) compared to preindustrial levels. After that point, heat waves, floods, droughts, crop failures and species extinctions would be much harder to deal with. The average temperature of the planet has already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Mr. Biden said that he was willing to use executive authority to take action on global warming. He has recently made this point after being criticized by environmentalists and young climate activists for his decision to approve an immense oil drilling project in Alaska known as Willow last month.
"We must do more than just acknowledge the climate challenges that we face," said Mr. Biden to other world leaders at a virtual meeting on climate and energy held Thursday. "We are committed to enhancing our ambitions and actions. "Yes, we are willing to work hard to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius."
Biden wants to be the one who succeeds where his predecessor, Barack Obama, has failed. Obama attempted to implement broad limits on pollution from power plants nearly a decade before. The Supreme Court blocked the effort and President Donald J. Trump rolled it back. The Supreme Court confirmed last summer that the E.P.A. The E.P.A. had limited authority to regulate the carbon emissions of power plants.
Three factors have boosted the Biden Administration. Carbon capture technology has improved since the Obama administration. When Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act in 2010, they included language that classified greenhouse gasses as pollutants, which would be regulated by E.P.A. The new law also provides tax credits for power plant operators who capture carbon emissions, making this technology more economically feasible.
The E.P.A. intends to be flexible, according to people familiar with the new plan. People familiar with the plan say that the E.P.A. intends to be flexible. The plan is to set different targets depending on the size and type of plant, its frequency of operation, or if it's already due for retirement. Some coal plants scheduled to close in the next decade might not be required to meet any new standards.
Patrick Morrisey said that the Republican Attorney General of West Virginia - a coal producing state - and other people were eagerly awaiting Mr. Biden’s plan. He said, "We're eager to review E.P.A.'s new proposed regulation on power plants and will be ready to once again lead the fight against federal encroachment."
Some environmental groups also criticize carbon capture technology. They argue that it's better to switch to clean energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectricity, which don't emit pollution.
The proposed rules for power plants would also be subject to public comments and not be finalized until next year.
The Biden administration has rushed to implement three proposed regulations, before the Republicans have a chance of nullifying them if they gain control of Congress in 2020. A new Congress, elected in November next year, could use the Congressional Review Act to overturn regulations issued by agencies within 60 days after the previous Congress.
As Mr. Biden is preparing to announce his reelection bid, he'll need the young voters that helped him win the White House back in 2020.
Biden announced that he would ask Congress for $500 million to combat deforestation of the Amazon. He signed an executive directive on Friday to establish the White House Office of Environmental Justice, and to mandate that all federal agencies develop plans for addressing the disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate changes on minority and tribe communities.
He told environmentalists at a Rose Garden event, where he was signing the order, that he had flown over thousands of acres of land that were ravaged by wildfires because of environmental change. "I have seen far too many communities reduced to rubble due to storms that are becoming more violent and frequent." This is a threat to the nation, and even to the entire world.
Electric utilities continue to complain that any policy that requires them to install carbon-capture technology will be too costly, increasing energy costs for consumers.
In a 2021 report, a group of 600 investors from around the world, including BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors, as well as other major shareholders in U.S. utility companies, stated that carbon capture is "risky and expensive" because of its high costs.
Some experts believe that the conditions around carbon capture technology is changing.
The technology, once viewed by many as a waste of money, has evolved. The Biden administration invests billions of dollars in research and demo projects to further advance the technology. While there are still only 40 power plants in the world with this equipment, it is slowly increasing. Calpine Corporation is one of the largest natural gas-based electricity generators in the United States. It's building huge carbon capture and storage facilities for its power generation units in Deer Park Texas.
The Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives to accelerate adoption. The Inflation Reduction Act increased federal tax credits available to electric utilities who capture carbon dioxide pollution, from $30 per ton to $135 for each ton. This could mean hundreds of thousands of extra dollars for large power companies each year.
Carrie Jenks is the executive director at Harvard's Environmental and Energy Law Program. She said that the power sector had not yet found it economically viable to build. The I.R.A. incentives have reduced the costs and made it economically feasible. "We are seeing more and more companies wanting to build."