Manufacturers raise doubts over Biden power plant emissions proposal

The Biden administration has proposed new rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal, which is expected to cost billions of dollars, was deemed “unfeasible” and “a grave risk to our economy” by the National Association of Manufacturers.

According to the administration, the proposed rules will result in a 2% increase in average utility bills by 2030, decreasing to less than 1% by 2040. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said that while the rules would have a negligible impact on electricity prices, they would have significant benefits for public health and the climate.

“EPA’s proposal relies on proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future,” Regan said.

NAM, however, is skeptical of the EPA’s relatively sanguine predictions.

“With nearly 60% of our nation’s energy generated from natural gas and coal, this will either require deployment of still nascent technologies at an impractical pace or force those plants to shut down entirely,” NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Brandon Farris said. “With the many threats to global energy security, that is a grave risk to our economy and to our families. The U.S. cannot afford to shut down more than half of our power generation and grind our economy to a halt.”

The proposed rules will undergo a two-month public comment period before final adoption, during which changes may be made. The EPA’s plan involves phasing in lower air-pollution targets starting in 2030, with full compliance expected by 2042. In addition to reducing greenhouse gasses, the rules aim to cut emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

An Arizona business leader says his organization will participate in the public comment process to ensure the perspective of the private sector is reflected in any final rule.

“We all want clean air, but Arizona has demonstrated that private sector innovation is far more efficient at cleaning the environment than heavy-handed, job-killing regulations,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden said. “We’ll be submitting comments to make clear to the Biden administration that, while we’re willing partners in efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses, we cannot support a policy that harms the economic viability of our manufacturing sector and related industries.”

EPA says that the Biden administration’s work “has already kicked off a clean energy and manufacturing boom across the country and is adding momentum for technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and clean hydrogen.” The Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes investment in carbon storage facilities, but critics allege that carbon capture is unproven and expensive.

The proposal could face legal challenges, as previous climate rules implemented by the Obama administration were successfully blocked through litigation.

The proposal will also face opposition on Capitol Hill.

“By imposing unworkable deadlines and unproven technologies not commercially available, this latest version of Democrats’ so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’ poses an existential threat to providers of affordable and reliable American energy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

Craig Ruiz

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