EPA clamps down on new power plants & refineries

New refineries and power plants will have to address greenhouse gas emissions before receiving federal approval under a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency, agency officials said.

The move could be major. For one thing, greenhouse gas is a clean energy buzz word and everybody appears to have an opinion. For another, any move by the EPA regarding the Clean Air Act elevates the debate.

In California, Proposition 23 dominates discussion over greenhouse gas. The measure would suspend AB 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring California to develop regulations that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

EPA's proposal complements a rule passed this spring which specifies that beginning in 2011, projects that increase greenhouse gas emissions substantially require an air permit.

Next up for EPA is making sure states modify their permitting laws.

For instance, an EPA statement says, "EPA will work closely and promptly with states to help them develop, submit, and approve necessary revisions to enable the affected states to issue air permits to GHG-emitting sources. Additionally, EPA will continue to provide guidance and act as a resource for the states as they make the various required permitting decisions for GHG emissions."

Expect fireworks.

Darren Goode of thehill.com reports that industry groups challenging EPA's rule include the American Forest and Paper Association, National 
Association of Manufacturers, the American Iron and Steel Institute 
and the Portland Cement Association.

Goode wrote, the "Sierra Club filed a legal challenge despite its support for the intent of the rule and the timeline for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. The group is concerned about the precedent it could 
set for other pollutants."

Likewise, Kassie Siegel, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute director, said the EPA's actions fall short.

“The EPA should be moving boldly, quickly, and confidently to implement the Clean Air Act’s successful pollution-reduction programs for greenhouse gases. ... While everyone agrees that greenhouse reductions for the largest polluters must be prioritized, the EPA can and should move far more quickly to reduce pollution from the other very important sources."

Photo: Ravenswood Power Plant in New York City by ericortner.