In June of this year, President Obama announced his plan to address climate issues. The EPA has announced a number of new regulations that are scheduled for public comment and finalization in the fall of 2014 in furtherance of the President’s agenda. Some of these new regulations have the potential to significantly impact the coal and Marcellus Shale industry, as well as the construction infrastructure that goes along with it, in Pennsylvania.
The objective of the new EPA rules is to reduce greenhouse gases. The federal government attributes 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions domestically to power plants. Based on this assumption, the EPA will soon require partial carbon capture and sequestration at power plants. Most experts agree that this will be nearly impossible for coal fired power plants to do economically in comparison to natural gas facilities. The standards are high for natural gas too, as new natural gas fired turbines would be required to meet an emission limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per mega-watt hour.
The proposed EPA regulations seem to take little account of the economics required to meet the stated goals. Most companies will not have the resources to renovate current facilities or build new ones to meet these criteria because it is so cost prohibitive. At a time when a major portion of the construction market in Pennsylvania is surviving on the construction of infrastructure for development of its natural resources, this development may slow things down or, worse, put a complete halt to it.
Legal challenges are expected to the new regulations from several quarters. Among those making the most noise are members of Congress from coal producing states like Kentucky. Local Senator Tom Carper of Delaware supports the new regulations and, as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on clean air and the environment, says he will do all he can to make sure the new regulations go into effect.