After years of planning and arguing, the U.S. government unveiled a proposal Friday to begin regulating the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions: power plants.
The U.S. power sector accounts for about a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, which accumulates in the atmosphere and traps heat that causes global warming. These emissions from power plants are currently unregulated, but President Obama announced in June that his administration was planning new rules.
An overview of those rules was released Friday morning by the Environmental Protection Agency. Here are four important things to know about them:
1. Fossil-fuel plants won’t stop emitting carbon dioxide.
The average U.S. coal-fired power plant currently emits nearly 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour (MWh). The EPA’s plan would require newly built coal plants to emit no more than 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh.
The rules also cover new natural gas plants, although their smaller carbon footprint means few would need to deviate from current industry practices. The EPA plans to limit large gas plants (those producing at least 850 MW of electricity) to 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per MWh, while smaller gas plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds. The average natural gas plant now emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per MWh.
This is a change from a previous version of the rules, released 18 months ago, that proposed one standard for all power plants regardless of their size or fuel type.
2. We’ll hear more about natural gas and ‘clean coal.’
The rules may spur lawsuits from coal-reliant industries, since they would require new coal plants to implement costly technology that no commercial coal plant has ever used. New facilities would likely need to employ “carbon capture and sequestration” (CCS), which involves removing CO2 from coal emissions, compressing it, pumping it through a pipeline and then injecting it into deep rock formations a mile or more underground.
Although the technology is still relatively new, a few CCS power plants are in development across North America. The EPA estimates CCS can reduce a plant’s CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent. If applied to a single 500 MW coal-fired power plant — which emits about 3 million tons of CO2 per year — that would be equivalent to planting more than 62 million trees and letting them grow for 10 years. While the EPA’s proposal might spark more interest (and innovation) in CCS, it should also encourage an existing trend in the U.S. power sector: burning cheaper, and slightly cleaner, natural gas instead of coal.
3. Burning coal would begin to reflect its true cost.
Releasing industrial waste into the environment is far more affordable than compressing and storing it. But since CO2 feeds the hugely expensive problem of climate change — and burning coal releases lots of CO2 — people worldwide are already paying for coal use. The basis of the EPA’s plan is protecting public health, since the Supreme Court authorized the agency in 2007 to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has made it clear she also sees climate change as an economic issue.
The EPA’s plan is designed to shift more of this expense to the companies that create it. Many energy companies, however, have warned they’ll pass that cost on to customers via higher electricity rates. The plan would make coal a more expensive fuel source, but only by closing a loophole that currently allows its inevitable expense to be dispersed in the atmosphere. And cheaper options are on the horizon — not just natural gas, but also renewable energy sources that are falling in price due to improved technology.
4. Not much will happen anytime soon.
Although this would be a big deal for U.S. climate policy, none of it is going to happen overnight. First comes a 60-day public comment period, which will include a public hearing, followed by a lengthy finalization process that will stretch into next year. And while the CO2 regulation on new power plants isn’t popular in the electricity industry, it’s essentially a preview of the real battle: the upcoming limits of CO2 from existing plants.
The EPA plans to issue proposed CO2 standards for existing plants by June 1, 2014.
DAVIS, W.Va. (AP) — Canaan Valley Resort State Park is in the final stages of a $34 million renovation.
Officials say the renovation project that includes 160 guestrooms, a new lobby and conference space is expected to be complete in late October.
Construction has taken more than two years and includes the complete retro-fitting of the lodge.
Canaan Valley Resort offers a variety of accommodations including new guestrooms and suites, cottage rentals and paved campsites.
The resort also features an array of activities for all seasons, including skiing, target shooting, swimming, hiking, and golf.
OSLO, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Climate experts on a U.N. panel should focus more on shorter reports on specialist subjects such as extreme weather in a shift from sweeping overviews of the kind being prepared this week in Stockholm, many scientists and governments say.
The big studies about global warming, produced every six or seven years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are authoritative but are time-consuming and in some cases are quickly out of date.
“A blockbuster every six years is no longer really helpful,” said professor Myles Allen of Oxford University and among the authors who contributed to an IPCC summary of the findings that is due for presentation in Stockholm on Friday.
Many experts instead favour more frequent and targeted reports, for instance about droughts, floods and heatwaves in the preceding year, to see if climate change is influencing their frequency or severity.
A focus for special reports could be food production in a changing climate, the prospects for geoengineering – for instance, projects to dim sunlight – or the risks of irreversible changes such as a runaway melt of West Antarctica.
The IPCC is working on three overview reports totalling about 3,000 pages, starting with a 31-page draft summary of the science of climate change due to be released in Stockholm on Friday after four days of editing by governments and scientists.
A big strength of the IPCC is that its assessments of the climate are approved both by scientists and by governments – giving the findings broad acceptance in negotiations on a U.N. deal to fight climate change, due to be agreed by 2015. Possible reforms will be discussed at talks in Georgia in October.
“I support the global assessment cycle, but would strongly argue for the need to complement it with frequent updates,” said Johan Rockstrom, director of the Stockholm Resilience Center.
Drafts of the Stockholm report show that the IPCC is set to raise the probability that most climate change since the 1950s is man-made to “extremely likely”, or at least 95 percent, from “very likely” or 90 percent, in 2007.
Many nations including the United States, in submissions this year to the IPCC about reforms, also argue for more special reports. In recent years the IPCC has produced reports on extreme weather and on renewable energies.
Britain suggests using Web-based “wiki” type tools that could allow more frequent updates. Italy says that there is “no automatic need” for another blockbuster report about the science of climate change, like the one in Stockholm.
One problem is that IPCC assessments are quickly out of date. Scientists trying, for instance, to account for a “hiatus” in the pace of global warming this century are only allowed to consider peer-reviewed literature from before mid-March 2013.
Scientists who contribute to the IPCC work for free.
It means prestige – the IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize – but also criticism, for instance after the IPCC exaggerated the pace of the thaw of Himalayan glaciers in 2007 by projecting they might all vanish by 2035.
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