Tuesday November 24th, 2015 5:13PM

Obama moves to limit power-plant carbon pollution

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Linking global warming to public health, disease and extreme weather, the Obama administration pressed ahead Friday with tough requirements to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, despite protests from industry and Republicans that it would dim coal's future.

The proposal, which would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants, is intended to help reshape where Americans get electricity, moving from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It's also a key step in President Barack Obama's global warming plans, because it would put in motion plans to end what he called "the limitless dumping of carbon pollution" from all power plants.

Under the law once the Environmental Protection Agency controls carbon at new plants, it will also control carbon at existing plants - a regulation the agency said Friday it would start work on immediately to meet a June 2014 deadline.

Yet the federal government's own analysis of the new power plant proposal concludes that it would have a "negligible" impact on carbon dioxide emissions, pose little to no costs for the industry and provide no additional benefits to the public by 2022. That's because it essentially locks in what was widely expected to happen anyway. Even without new federal regulations, the agency concluded that no new coal plants would have been built. Instead, the bulk of new power in this country would be supplied by natural gas, which already meets the standard announced Friday.

"The EPA ... does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets or the U.S. economy," the EPA wrote in its analysis.

The industry, and its allies in Congress, quickly dismissed that conclusion.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the agency was holding the coal industry to "impossible standards."

"If these regulations go into effect," he said, "American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar and economic uncertainty will grow."

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a speech Friday that rather than damage an industry, the proposed regulations would help the industry to adapt, by encouraging energy companies to develop ways to reduce carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, from burning coal.

"This proposal, rather than killing future coal, actually sets up a certain pathway forward for coal to continue to be part of the diverse mix in this country," McCarthy said. "We know that coal is going to be part of the energy generation that we rely on substantially over the next few decades. Why wouldn't we now acknowledge and invest in the kind of technologies that will allow coal a future long beyond that?"

McCarthy pressed her case by linking global warming to environmental problems that include severe weather, disease and worsening of other types of air pollution.

"We know this is not just about melting glaciers," McCarthy said. "Climate change - caused by carbon pollution - is one of the most significant public health threats of our time."

Despite some tweaks, the rule packs the same punch as one announced last year, which received more than 2.5 million comments and was legally vulnerable because it required coal and natural gas to meet the same limit.

Coal and natural gas now have separate standards, but the effect is the same: New coal-fired power plants will need to install expensive technology to capture between 30 and 50 percent of their carbon dioxide and bury it underground. No coal-fired power plant has done that yet, in large part because of the cost. Virtually all new natural gas plants would meet the standard without additional controls.

The EPA's own analysis says that a new natural gas-fired plant would cost $891 per kilowatt hour. But a new coal plant built to meet the standard would cost between $3,274 and $3,301 per kilowatt hour.

Environmental groups praised the proposal for taking action against the largest remaining uncontrolled source of greenhouse gas pollution. That pollution, the EPA said Friday, is worsening air quality, water quality, disease and contributing to more severe weather.

"Big polluters have been getting a free ride for decades, while Americans foot the bill in the form of asthma attacks, respiratory illness, floods, wildfires and superstorms," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

The regulations have been in the works since 2011 and stem from a 1970 law passed by Congress to control air pollution. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that that law, the Clean Air Act, could be applied to heat-trapping pollution. The EPA already has issued rules aimed at curbing global warming pollution from automobiles and the largest industrial sources.

Coal was already struggling to compete with cheaper natural gas. It now accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. electricity, a share that was already shrinking.

The EPA pointed to four coal-fired power plants under development - in Texas, Mississippi, California and Saskatchewan, Canada - to show that the rule is possible to meet.

Yet one of the companies behind those plants, Southern Co., said Friday that its Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi "cannot be consistently replicated on a national scale." The facility, scheduled to open in May 2014, is located close to low-cost lignite coal. It is also adjacent to an oil field, where the carbon dioxide will be injected to produce more oil.

The company also has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and tax credits to offset the cost.

The revised standards, the company said in a statement, "essentially eliminate coal as a future generation option."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 3 days ago )
World leaders vow vigorous response to Paris terror spree, but little indication of next steps
ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — World leaders vowed a vigorous response to the Islamic State group's terror spree in Paris as they opened a two-day meeting in Turkey on Sunday, with President Barack Obama call...
2:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Rash of E. coli cases in Pacific Northwest highlights problem of foodborne illnesses
SEATTLE (AP) — As Chipotle prepares to reopen its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest this week after an E. coli outbreak that sickened about 45 people, health experts say foodborne illnesses are mor...
1:40AM ( 1 week ago )
Biden says he will not run for president in 2016, finalizing field of Democratic candidates
Vice President Joe Biden will not run for president in 2016, he said Wednesday, ending a months-long flirtation with a third White House campaign and setting him on a glide path toward the end of his decades-long political career.
1:34PM ( 1 month ago )
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 month ago )