The Biden administration officially proposed new regulations Thursday that aim to drastically reduce greenhouse gases from existing and newly-built power plants, marking the first time the federal government has restricted carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which generate ~25% of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency said its plan would cut carbon emissions from coal plants and new gas plants by 617M metric tons during 2028-42, the equivalent of reducing the annual emissions of 137M passenger vehicles.
The plan would force the energy and power industries to quickly bring up to scale carbon- and methane-capturing technology that is still in its infancy.
Carbon capture, sequestration and storage technology currently is used at only a dozen or so of the 3,400 coal and gas-fired electricity plants in the U.S.
Nearly all coal plants – as well as large, frequently used gas-fired power plants – would be required to cut or capture at least 90% of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2038, and plants that cannot meet the new standards would be forced to retire.
The EPA did not provide estimates of how much it would cost to implement the plan, but an analysis by the Clean Air Task Force said retrofitting a commercial-scale 300 MW natural gas plant with carbon capture would cost a utility $372M and cost a similar-size coal plant ~$600M.
In an effort to avoid the fate of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan – the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the EPA had overstepped its regulatory authority – the new Biden plan requires reductions of greenhouse gases inside power plants while giving energy utilities more flexibility over how to achieve emissions targets.
Earlier this month, the U.S. pipeline regulator unveiled new proposed rules aimed at reducing methane leaks from the country’s network of 2.7M miles of natural gas pipelines.