EPA's crystal ball remains cloudy
Meanwhile, uncertainties loom over EPA's future direction on regulating carbon from power plants like Gallatin and Big Sandy.
Gina McCarthy, the agency's administrator-designate who awaits Senate confirmation, has assured anti-regulation lawmakers that EPA has no immediate plan to craft such a rule, though she refuses to close the book on action down the road.
"In the event that EPA does undertake action to address [greenhouse gas] emissions from existing power plants, the agency would ensure, as it always seeks to do, ample opportunity for States, the public and stakeholders to offer meaningful input on potential approaches," McCarthy said in recent written comments submitted to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (E&ENews PM, May 6).
Jeff Holmstead, the former EPA air division chief under the George W. Bush administration and now head of the environmental strategies group at Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington, said the consensus view within the utility industry is that EPA will attempt to regulate CO2 from existing coal plants. But he said there is considerable doubt over whether the agency can cap such emissions at every utility smokestack, or whether rules will have to account for a variety of other factors, including how a utility's overall fleet is maintained and operated.
"Future carbon regulation under the Clean Air Act won't be like MATS [Mercury Air Toxics Standards] or CSAPR [the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule], where EPA sets very clear and rigid standards," he said. "Most of these plants are quite efficient already, so most people believe there isn't much else EPA can do under the Clean Air Act to burden these plants with respect to CO2."
As for other regulatory approaches, Holmstead said: "There is some chance that there would be some future carbon regulatory scheme, but at this point it seems further away than it did five years ago."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500