The proposed requirements, which are limited to “new sources,” would require new fossil fuel-fired EGUs greater than 25 megawatt electric (MWe) to meet an output-based standard of 1,000 lb of CO2 per megawatt-hour (lb CO2/MWh), based on the performance of widely used natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) technology, according to the EPA. The agency said new coal- or petcoke-fired units could meet the standard either by employing carbon capture and storage (CCS) of approximately 50% of the CO2 in the exhaust gas at startup, or through later application of more effective CCS to meet the standard on average over a 30-year period. Readers can see the entire proposed regulation at: http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/pdfs/20120327proposal.pdf.

The proposed NSPS drew sharp criticism from the National Mining Association (NMA). “The EPA’s proposal for controlling GHG emissions from about half the nation’s electric power supply is a poorly disguised cap-and-tax scheme that represents energy and economic policy at its worst,” said NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn. “Requiring coal-based power plants to meet an emissions standard based on natural gas technology is a policy overtly calculated to destroy a significant portion of American’s electricity supply.” Quinn also pointed to higher utility costs for consumers and reduced grid reliability as other consequences of the rule.

While the EPA said the rule targets new plants and is “not intended” to affect existing facilities, many are concerned plant modifications required by other EPA rules will be deemed “major” and expose those operations to new source review requirements, including the proposed NSPS. The NSPS limits new plant emissions to a level achieved by natural gas units, not by coal-based generation without carbon capture and storage technology. NSPS, a requirement of the Clean Air Act, has been the administration’s functional equivalent for the cap-and-trade legislation for reducing CO2 emissions that Congress has repeatedly refused to enact. The proposed rule, which goes into immediate effect, also would apply to plants already permitted but unable to commence construction within one year. The EPA estimates 15 coal-based plants are in the permitted category.

The NMA is working with bi-partisan congressional supporters to blunt the impact of the rule. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) moved to secure 221 bi-partisan signatures in the House, calling on the Office of Management and Budget to stop the EPA from implementing the rule. In the Senate, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) recently introduced an amendment and said he would introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval to nullify the NSPS rule as soon as it becomes final. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declined to say when that would be during a press conference this week.