SHERIDAN — Officials at Cloud Peak Energy say new regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will restrict coal development in the Powder River Basin. The new regulations, revealed Friday and now in a 60-day public comment period, set limits on carbon emissions allowed at coal-fired power plants.
“We are concerned that these EPA regulations threaten to leave families and businesses with higher electricity bills and push jobs, investments and important energy research and development overseas,” said Rick Curtsinger, spokesman for Cloud Peak Energy.
Currently, the average coal-burning power plant produces about 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. New regulations would require the plants to get emissions down to under 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour.
National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons said in a press release the new regulations are an overreach of the EPA’s authority. In order to comply with the standards, any new coal plant would have to install an emissions filtration system with technology so new it would be cost prohibitive. The companies would also have to store the excess carbon removed.
“The decisions the EPA makes in these regulations — such as mandating technologies that are not yet commercially feasible — will have far-reaching consequences not only on our energy supply but also on the operations of all manufacturers,” Timmons said.
The filtration system necessary to get a plant’s emissions down enough to comply with the regulation has not been tested on a commercial scale.
The tougher restrictions on greenhouse gasses is the first major initiative of President Barack Obama’s plan to take action against global warming. The National Library of Medicine calls coal-fired power plants, which generate about 44.6 percent of the country’s electricity, one of the nation’s greatest sources of pollution.
Curtsinger echoed the sentiments of coal industry experts across the nation who insist the new emission standards are unattainable.
“The U.S. has some of the most abundant natural resources in the world,” he said. “Yet, we lack a coherent and balanced national energy strategy, which is critical to move our country back on a path toward growth and prosperity. America’s energy future is too important to all of us to be decided by seemingly endless EPA regulations and highly-coordinated, well-funded tactics of anti-fossil fuel groups that do not represent the vast majority of Americans.
“Our country needs a fair, predictable and balanced regulatory framework that encourages, not precludes, investments in modern, clean burning, coal-fueled power plants to support future generations and America’s global competitiveness,” he said.
Curtsinger said he expects to see the new regulations challenged in court after they are finalized next year.
The EPA is also working to regulate carbon emission standards in existing coal plants.