- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2013

Three months after President Obama vowed to get tough on climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday begins that mission by announcing long-awaited rules for new power plants that, while slightly watered down, will be tough on the beleaguered coal industry.

The regulations, under development for two years and recently finalized, set harsh limits on carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power-generation facilities and could, critics argue, eventually spell doom for American fossil fuels.

It’s the first major action in the White House’s broad climate change agenda, cited by the president as one of his top second-term priorities. New guidelines on existing plants are likely to be announced next year.

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Taken together, the moves could spur a dramatic shift in American energy and power generation, with Friday’s announcement serving as a first step toward the ultimate goal, analysts say.

“What this rule is — it’s a foot in the door to end coal, but not only that, to end natural gas as well,” said Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the conservative Institute for Energy Research.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is expected to announce regulations Friday morning that will be less stringent than previous proposals. Earlier drafts, for example, limited coal-fired power plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour.

The updated regulations could allow coal plants as much as 1,400 pounds per megawatt hour, some analysts predict.

The rules also will establish emissions restrictions on natural gas facilities, though they will not be nearly as harsh as those on coal.

Natural gas plants likely will be able to meet EPA limits, at least in the immediate future.

Concessions for coal backers

Ms. McCarthy and other members of the president’s energy and environment team changed the coal requirements after meeting with coal proponents, who urged the administration to scale back its approach. Coal-state lawmakers, including Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, also have pleaded with the White House to relax its environmental goals.

Although the new figures look better on paper, analysts say, they are virtually impossible to achieve with commercially available, affordable technology.

“Despite our pleas for a common-sense approach, every indication is that the EPA will proceed down a path that will put a de facto ban on the construction of new coal plants, and thus stop the development of clean-coal technologies,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

‘Green’ agenda stalls

In the shadows of the EPA decision, the backlash to Mr. Obama’s agenda on climate change continues to grow.

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