Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

Oklahoma Utility: No Immediate Impact from EPA’s Proposed Power Plant Carbon Cuts

The proposed EPA CO2 rules not apply to existing coal-fired plants like this Grand River Dam Authority plant in Chouteau, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The proposed EPA CO2 rules not apply to existing coal-fired plants like this Grand River Dam Authority plant in Chouteau, Okla.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing caps on carbon emissions for new coal-fired and natural gas power plants, as President Obama further pushes to combat climate change.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Oklahoma’s largest utility. Spokesman Brian Alford says the rules for coal plants would only apply to new power generation, which OG&E has no plans to add until at least 2020.

Still he says the utility will keep an eye on the process, as the regulations would impact natural gas as well.

Nationally, the news is drawing heat from the coal industry and lawmakers in big coal states, and it’s also drawing the ire of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who — along with OG&E — is already battling the federal agency over regional haze rules.

In an email on Friday, Pruitt told StateImpact “We are reviewing the announcement’s potential effects on Oklahoma, but based on the EPA’s interpretation of the law, it could affect all energy sources, leaving Oklahoma consumers holding the bill.”

As StateImpact has reported, Pruitt is concerned that all these coal and natural gas rules are a precursor to more strict regulation on the oil industry.

“I believe the EPA has an anti-fossil fuel mentality,” Pruitt said. “They started with coal, and now it’s reached natural gas. … You see that permeating the EPA’s approach to these laws. That’s the reason I think they are rejecting, and dismissing and not respecting, the role of the states.”

If the carbon rules are implemented — and they have a long way to go, as legal challenges are expected — it would be the first time the U.S. placed limits on the release of greenhouses gases at power plants.

But it’s not the first time caps have been proposed. In 2012, the EPA recommended rules that would’ve held new coal-fired and natural gas plants to the same standard. Now they’re different.

Under the proposed rules, new large natural gas plants would be limited to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, new small natural gas plants to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour, and coal-fired plants to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour. New coal plants could obtain a slightly more lenient standard if they take the option of averaging their emissions over several years.

Compliance would require the installation of technology like scrubbers, designed to remove CO2 from the exhaust the plants produce.

These rules would not apply to already existing power plants, however, senior EPA officials say they are beginning the ‘outreach process’ to come up with guidelines for them.

Their plan is to have states come up with their own plan to meet goals set forth on the federal level.

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