Mar 11, 2022 - Energy & Environment

EPA floats path on electricity CO2 emissions — with an asterisk

Illustration of smoke coming out of a smokestack in the shape of a lightning bolt

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

HOUSTON — President Biden's top environmental regulator just offered the most detailed revelations about EPA's strategy to slash CO2 and other pollution from power plants.

Why it matters: Power is the second-largest U.S. source of planet-warming gases. Rules are crucial to White House climate goals as Democrats' big clean energy legislation remains stuck.

Driving the news: EPA head Michael Regan's plans together target CO2, smog, coal wastes that threaten waterbodies and more.

Here's what he told the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference Thursday about this "integrated and coordinated" approach ...

  • There's an imminent federal plan to cut smog-forming emissions that travel between states.
  • This spring EPA will release analysis of options to cut CO2 from new gas-fired plants.
  • Later this year EPA will take a "fresh look" at how to regulate CO2 from existing and new plants.
  • EPA's planning new rules on surface storage of coal-plant wastes and guidelines on effluent releases.

Yes, but: The Supreme Court may greatly restrict EPA's leeway to craft CO2 rules without explicit guidance from Congress.

Quick take: Regan's not putting all his eggs in the basket of directly regulating CO2 from existing coal plants.

  • "We don’t have to overly rely on any one policy or rulemaking to achieve our mission and ensure affordable and reliable energy," he said onstage.
  • And Regan told reporters that rules targeting other pollutants have "co-benefits" that also curb CO2.
  • "The industry gets a chance to take a look at this suite of rules all at once and say, is it worth doubling down in investments in this current facility, or operation, or should we look at that cost and say, now it's time to pivot and invest in the clean energy of the future," he said.
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