EPA’s Clean Power Plan Rule Prioritizes Net-Zero Over Grid Reliability

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Coal and natural gas plants provide 60% of the US’ affordable, reliable, and baseload power. In a time of increased electricity demand, America needs to double down on harnessing these sources—not abandon them.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan 2.0 (CPP) rule, however, takes the country in the wrong direction. Under this regulation, one that is arguably illegal, existing coal and new natural gas power plants will be mandated to install emissions control technologies that aren’t yet commercially viable. Plants that don’t comply risk permanent closure. This unrealistic mandate is advanced under the guise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 90% by 2032.

 

The Biden administration should nix this rule altogether given its many drawbacks to the American economy, all of which come with no environmental gain and are based on dubious authority. If it doesn’t reverse course, a forthcoming Congressional resolution of disapproval and newly-filed lawsuits could stop overreach here.

The EPA’s limited authority over-regulating greenhouse gas emissions was affirmed in the landmark June 2022 West Virginia vs. EPA decision. That case challenged the original Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and the Supreme Court ruled the EPA lacked the statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. No change has been made to grant the EPA more authority over greenhouse gasses.

 

Moreover, the Clean Air Act says the EPA must craft achievable emission limitations standards that have been “adequately demonstrated.” Yet, the Carbon Capture technology that would be relied upon under this rule has never been “adequately demonstrated” on the scale that EPA is attempting to require.

 

The EPA rule would lead to grid instability because operators will be forced to adopt intermittent, unreliable, and costly sources like wind and solar. According to the Department of Energy, wind is only reliable 33.5% of the year while solar is dependable for just 24.9% of the time. Wind energy generation decreased for the first time last year. The federal government reports wind generation hit maturity with slower recorded wind speeds, despite adding 6.2 gigawatts of new wind capacity. Solar energy also had a bad 2023 with over 100 companies going bankrupt and expensive electricity rates. Many planned solar plants, including those receiving Inflation Reduction Act subsidies, are predicted to be cancelled this year due to price collapse and waning demand.

 

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned in its December 2023 Long-Term Assessment report that rigid policies like CPP 2.0 “have the potential to influence generators” to close down their plants. The risk of massive electric reliability issues across the country is by no means a political talking point. In 2023, FERC Commissioner Danly stated in a hearing to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that “there is a looming reliability crisis in our electricity markets.” In that same hearing, Commissioner Christie said “The US is heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability.” These are the experts sounding the alarm that we need more grid capacity from baseload sources, not intermittent ones, or we could face not just loss of commerce but a loss of human life.

 

CPP 2.0 promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2032 by mandating coal and natural gas plants install carbon capture and storage (CCS) or face closure. But the EPA is downplaying the nascent technology’s shortcomings.

 

CCS, as it stands, is expensive and will diminish coal and natural gas plant efficiency by at least 14%. Moreover, natural gas and coal plants retrofitted with first-generation carbon capture technology reportedly can expect a 50% and 70 to 80% increase in electricity costs, respectively.

 

In the US, we already have highly effective emissions technology that enables coal plants to run in an incredibly environmental way. For example, just look at how states that rely heavily on coal have almost none of the air quality issues of China or India. That’s because of our emissions control technologies.

 

Let’s call this rule out for what it really is: It’s a vehicle to punish coal country which has left the president’s party in droves over the last 20 years, in favour of radical environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) donors who are a major constituency of this administration.

 

The finalized Clean Power Plan 2.0 rule is a bad deal for American energy producers and consumers. Congress should immediately pull the plug on this rule.

 

Gabriella Hoffman is director of Independent Women’s Forum’s Center for Energy and Conservation (iwf.org/CEC) and host of the District of Conservation podcast.

Christian Palich is Vice President of Government & External Affairs at Eagle Forge Services Company, one of the nation’s largest coal producers and a board advisory member for IWF’s Center for Energy and Conservation.

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