New EPA Carbon Rules Are Promising, But Leave Many Issues Unresolved


On Friday morning, the Obama administration made a historic announcement outlining strict limits on the amount of carbon pollution that a U.S. power plant can legally generate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its proposal to restrict the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants to below 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour. Coal-powered plants will not meet this new standard without the implementation of expensive technology. This announcement caused an uprise within the coal industry, as well as with entities like utility companies and the National Mining Association that are concerned about the cost, development, and implementation of the new technologies in carbon capture.

While incorporating such innovative technologies will be costly and some organizations might suffer initially, this is much-needed regulation by the EPA that will have a positive impact on the environment, on humanity, and will most likely be economically efficient in the future. With countries like Germany committing to use 100% renewable energy, it's time for industries and factories that have notably harmed the environment to either clean up their acts or close. The EPA proposal will take about a year to finalize, and the regulations will only apply to new coal and natural-gas plants. The EPA has future plans to address the thousands of plants currently emitting significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Because the technological systems needed to capture carbon emissions have not yet been widely used, many are concerned about how they will operate. There are, however, two such plants under construction that plan to employ this technology. One is in Canada's Saskatchewan Province, and the other is in Mississippi's Kemper County, which is scheduled to open in May. There are also three other U.S. coal-powered plants scheduled to open in Texas and Illinois.

Gina McCarthy, and EPA administer, said Americans have a moral obligation to the next generation to protect the environment. She further commented that "home-grown technologies" are both achievable and flexible, and will only set the path forward for the U.S. coal industry.

Members of the coal industry do not reciprocate similar feelings. The industry says carbon-capture technology is unproven and would make building new plants uneconomical, as the Daily Beast reports. McCarthy combats this assertion by assuring the industry will adjust to the new technologies by making an example out of the plant in Mississippi. 

As Obama points out, industries have successfully adjusted to new policies, and that although complaints are common in the implementation of new regulations, it's important for companies to trust that these policies will only improve public health concerns, the environment, and the economic future.