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In June of 2013, President Obama directed the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to set flexible carbon pollution standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate, for power plants under Section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act. U.S. EPA proposed standards for new power plants on September 20 of this year. For existing power plants, U.S. EPA will propose standards by June 1, 2014, finalize them by June 1, 2015, and then give states one year to prepare plans for meeting them. Indiana’s plan, referred to as a State Implementation Plan, will be due to U.S. EPA by June 1, 2016.
This entire process for existing power plants raises several questions. How much of a reduction in CO2 emissions is needed from this sector? Will this be the final shot at power plants or will there be future requirements? This is important for planning purposes. Many coal fired utilities are or will soon be installing pollution controls to address the Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule or the 1-hour Sulfur Dioxide rule. If the CO2 emissions reduction requirements from these sources are going to increase over time, it may be best to close the coal fired power plants and replace them with natural gas fired power plants. Utilities cannot adequately plan with the regulatory uncertainty that exists.
How much of a reduction is needed or expected from existing utilities? The National Academy of Science Report “America’s Climate Choices” recommends that actions be taken now to start reducing U.S. GHG emissions to levels between 50 and 80 percent below 1990 levels. All of this reduction cannot come from the utility sector.
U.S. EPA has a database, the Clean Air Markets Database (CAMD), that has measured CO2 emissions from utilities since 1997, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. Eighteen states have seen at least a 20 percent decrease in utility CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2012. Four states have seen at least a 20 percent increase in CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2012. In California, where this topic is a big issue, CO2 emissions from utilities increased 44.3 percent from 2005 to 2012. The table below shows, by state, what percentage CO2 emissions from utilities have changed from 1997 to 2012 and from 2005 to 2012.
So how do we decide which states must reduce how much? Stay tuned. That is the current debate going on at this time.
|Percentage Change in CO2 Emissions from Utilities|
|State||Change from 1997-2012||Change from 2005–2012|
Data provided by the U.S. EPA Clean Air Market Database.