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EPA Proposes Carbon Emission Standards For New Power Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency says the standards will help combat climate change, but Governor Mike Pence says the proposal could hurt Indiana's economy.

plant wide

Photo: Bill Shaw/WTIU News

The Eagle Valley coal power plant in Martinsville is being closed, and a new, cleaner burning natural gas plant will be built nearby.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new carbon emission standards for natural gas and coal fired power plants. The regulations  proposed Friday are the first in what is expected to be a series of mandates aimed at cutting down on carbon pollution.

The standards would require new large natural gas power plants to keep carbon emissions below 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while allowing small natural gas plants and new coal-fired power plants 1,100 pound of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour.

The federal government would also give energy companies the choice of whether they want to hold themselves to an annual limit or average out their emissions over multiple years in exchange for emitting fewer carbon dioxide  over the long term.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the investments energy companies will have to make are worth the cost and will be good for business in the long run.

“We are very confident that the carbon pollution standards we are proposing today for new power plants are both flexible and achievable,” she says. “They pave a path forward for the next generation of power plants in this country.”

Indiana is one of the largest coal producers in the country, and state regulatory officials say the proposal is likely to discourage new coal facilities from being built in the state.

Earlier this year, Governor Mike Pence asked President Barack Obama to reject the EPA standards once they were announced.

“Unfortunately, the rules the EPA announced today and the contemplated carbon dioxide emissions rules for existing power plants, expected to be released in June of 2014, will constrain any potential for an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy and harm our economy in the process,” Pence said in a statement.

Indianapolis Power And Light’s proposed natural gas plant near Martinsville would be required to abide by the new standards. But IPL Spokeswoman Brandi David-Handy says the company anticipated the EPA’s move and has already designed the plant to meet the carbon limit.

“Overall, we’re also focused on making sure we can provide the reliable electricity to our customers that they’re used to at the rates that they’ve become accustomed to,” she says.

Duke Energy owns some of the largest power plants in the state, but spokeswoman Angeline Protogere says the standards will not affect her company because officials there have no plans to build any new power plants in Indiana in the near future.

Still, she says the EPA should consider the benefits of coal as they consider more mandates.

“We believe it’s important to have a diverse fuel mix that includes coal. It’s abundant. It’s a domestic resource and we need to take advantage of it.”

Both David-Handy and Protoger say their companies are keeping an eye on and trying to plan for more environmental regulations the EPA is expected to propose for existing plants next year. The EPA is asking energy companies and other stakeholders to submit information as it considers those standards, which would include new emission guidelines for existing power plants.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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