AEP Argues EPA Carbon Rules Relies on Technology Not Yet Viable

American Electric Power Co., the electric utility that owns some of the largest sources of carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S., argued today that a government proposal to cut those pollutants is impractical and relies on technology that isn’t yet viable.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued proposed rules this year that would preclude the construction of new coal-fired power plants that don’t have expensive carbon-capture and storage technology. Beginning in 2009, AEP tested that technology at a plant in West Virginia before shutting down that project last year.

“Based on AEP’s experience and EPA’s own admission, this technology is neither commercially demonstrated nor economically viable,” Mark McCullough, executive vice president of AEP, told a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today. As a result, the rule “forces reliance on a very volatile commodity, natural gas.”

Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation to prevent the EPA from following through on that proposal, one of a series of bills they have pushed to curb regulations from the EPA. AEP said it supports that legislation.

Other companies agree. Alstom SA, which worked with AEP on its carbon-capture project, said it has moved that technology to larger pilot projects, but none are ready for commercial scale.

“When the EPA came forward with a requirement for a technology in commercial practice that is not yet available commercially as the only way to meet a regulation, it seemed a departure from its history,” Robert Hilton, Alstom’s vice president for government affairs, said today.

Environmental groups and Democrats said the regulation is necessary to combat the effects of global warming, that impetus from this regulation is needed to prod along the development of the carbon-capture technology, and that cheaper, cleaner natural gas is preventing the construction of new coal plants.

“The marketplace is already providing cleaner and more competitive alternatives,” Daniel Lashof, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, said today.

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