EPA to Delay U.S. Carbon Rule for Power Plants Until Summer

The Environmental Protection Agency said it will delay carbon rules for power plants, missing a deadline set by President Barack Obama in one of the centerpieces of his climate-change agenda.

Janet McCabe, the EPA’s top official for air pollution, said the agency will miss this week’s legal deadline to issue a final rule for new power plants. A more contentious rule to cut emission from modified or existing plants will come out “mid-summer,” and not as scheduled in early June, she said.

“These rules are a suite of rules affecting an industry, and we wanted to address those at the same time,” McCabe told reporters on a conference call today.

The first U.S. carbon rules are a key part of Obama’s bid to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, while stopping them are a top priority on the Republicans congressional energy agenda this year. A coal-industry group called the announcement a sign Obama will “go at it alone” to “fulfill a misguided presidential legacy.”

“The administration is doubling down on its climate crusade at the expense of our economy and our people,” Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in a statement.

Emission Cuts

Power plants account for 40 percent of U.S. emissions, and coal, which is burned to produce almost 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, releases the most carbon dioxide for every kilowatt generated. The EPA’s carbon plan would discourage the use of coal, and boost natural gas, renewable energy or energy efficiency. EPA’s plan would force states to cut power-industry emissions by 30 percent in 2030 from 2005 levels.

The delay in issuing the rule for new plants, which would prohibit building coal plants that lack expensive carbon-capture technology, comes after industry groups said it would essentially outlaw new coal facilities.

McCabe said today that the EPA had identified issues that needed to be addressed together in rules for new and existing sources, and that justified the delay. Environmental groups, which have criticized EPA delays in issuing ozone and coal-ash rules, had anticipated the delay and didn’t complain.

“It’s full speed ahead for the Clean Power Plan, which will deliver America’s first-ever limits on power plant carbon pollution, the main culprit fueling dangerous climate change,” David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

McCabe said the EPA will draft an implementation plan for states that fail to come up with their own way to meet targets set by the agency. The plan will come out this summer, she said.

“We look forward with this groundbreaking standard and its commitment to ready a model federal plan for states who fail to submit their own plan,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said today in a statement.

(A previous headline on this story was corrected to reflect a change in timing of the release.)

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