Carbon Pollution Standards: EPA’S Key To Cut Emissions

by | May 24, 2023 | Environment, Trending

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The Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon pollution regulations are crucial to lowering climate pollution and attaining our climate goals. The agency’s suggestion for reducing carbon pollution from coal and gas-fired power stations, which has mostly gone uncontrolled until now, is an important step towards mitigating climate change.

What Is Carbon Pollution?

Carbon Pollution Standards: EPA'S Key To Cut Emissions

Carbon pollution refers to carbon dioxide emissions released by burning fossil fuels and cement production; it also includes carbon dioxide created by using gas fuels and gas flaring. CO2 is a colourless, odourless, and non-poisonous gas produced by burning carbon and the respiration of living beings. It is a greenhouse gas. The discharge of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and their precursors into the environment over a specific area and period is called emissions.

What Are The EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards, And How Do They Curb Them?

The US proposed the EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants to safeguard public health, reduce hazardous pollutants, and provide up to 85 billion dollars in environmental & public health welfare over the next two decades. The proposal for new coal and natural gas power plants would save up to 617 million metric tonnes of total carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2042, equivalent to decreasing annual emissions from 137 million passenger vehicles, or almost half of all cars in the United States. The EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards estimate that the net environmental and health advantages associated with the requirements on new gas and existing coal-fired power plants will be up to $85 billion through 2042.

The proposals would also result in the reduction of tens of thousands of tonnes of particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide, all of which are known to endanger people’s health, particularly in communities that have borne a disproportionate share of the effects of elevated pollution and injustice to the environment for far too long. The suggested criteria would prevent the following in 2030 alone: More than 1,300 premature deaths, over 800 hospital and emergency department visits, over 300,000 asthma episodes, 38,000 school absence days, and 66,000 lost workdays.

Overview Of The EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards: Protecting Health And The Environment

The EPA is responsible for eliminating dangerous pollution that endangers people’s health and well-being by proposing new regulations for fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards proposal focuses on proven, widely available solutions to reduce carbon emissions. It capitalizes on the momentum in the electricity sector to move towards a cleaner future. Along with historic investment in pure energy manufacture and deployment around the country, these ideas would help offer significant advantages to Americans by reducing climate change and other dangerous pollutants, safeguarding people’s health, and fueling American innovation.

The proposed limits and guidelines would require substantial reductions in carbon emissions based on proven and cost-effective control technology that can be applied directly to power plants, consistent with the EPA’s historical strategy for creating pollution standards under the Clean Air Act. They also give power plant owners and operators plenty of lead time and significant compliance flexibility, permitting utilities and grid managers to arrive at sound strategic planning and investment decisions and supporting the power sector’s capacity to keep providing dependable and inexpensive electricity. According to the EPA’s analysis, power providers can apply the rules with little influence on electricity rates, far inside the boundaries of historical swings.

Today’s proposed rule, in conjunction with additional recent EPA actions aimed at tackling health-harming pollution by the power sector, fulfills the administration’s goal to decrease pollution from the electricity industry while offering long-term regulatory stability and operational flexibility. Furthermore, the EPA and the Department of Energy recently agreed on a memorandum of understanding to promote grid stability and resiliency at all stages of the agency’s efforts to decrease pollution, protect public health, and bring environmental and economic benefits to all.

Leveraging Proven Solutions: EPA’s Focus On Cost-Effective Carbon Reduction Technologies

President Biden’s policy plan has already sparked a sustainable energy and industrial boom across the country, and technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and clean hydrogen are gaining traction. Due to this accomplishment, the power sector has diverse instruments for implementing clean, affordable power, taking advantage of ready-to-use advanced pollution reduction technology, generating and maintaining good-paying union jobs, and lower energy bills for households and businesses.

The EPA considered this considerable technological and economic progress when drafting the proposed rule, and it anticipated that power companies would use these tools and trends when considering how to fulfill the suggested requirements and emission restrictions most cost-effectively. Among the technology-based standards proposed by the EPA are:

  • It enhances the present New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for newly constructed fossil fuel-fired stationary combustion turbines (usually natural gas-fired).
  • They are developing emission standards for states to follow to decrease carbon emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired steam-generating EGUs (including coal, oil, and natural gas-fired units).
  • Developing emission standards for giant, frequently current fossil fuel-fired stationary ignition turbines (often natural gas-fired)

Implications Of The EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards

According to a separate estimate, the proposed criteria for current gas-fired plants and the subsequent phase of the NSPS could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 407 million metric tonnes. As the EPA finalizes the regulation, it will perform additional advanced modeling, align methodology across the rulemaking, and evaluate real-world situations in the power sector to better understand how the rule’s components interact. These proposed standards and emission guidelines, as suggested by Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, indicate the most effective emission reduction (BSER) system that has been proven to enhance the emission performance of the sources, considering prices, energy requirements, and other factors.

Measures such as CCS for coal and gas plants and low-GHG hydrogen co-firing for gas plants are more affordable for power plants operating at a higher capacity, more often, or for extended periods. The EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Standards address this by providing requirements for several subcategories of power plants based on unit characteristics such as capacity, anticipated length of operation, and frequency of operation.

The proposal needs states to engage with affected stakeholders when developing plans for existing sources, such as communities significantly strained by pollution and climate change impacts and the energy-dependent groups and employees who have powered our nation for generations. The EPA additionally carried out an environmental justice study, which revealed that these measures would play a substantial role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, aiding in the avoidance of the worst effects of climate change, which currently has a disproportionate impact on underserved and overburdened populations.

Conclusion

The EPA’s new carbon pollution standards expand the movement towards a cleaner future already occurring in the power sector. Since 2005, the electricity sector has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 36% despite meeting rising energy demand. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act makes significant investments in pollution control and renewable energy, bringing the United States closer to guaranteeing a more sustainable, stronger future for all communities.

Also Read: How Can Eliminating Air Pollution Emissions Benefit USA?

Author

  • Dr. Tanushree Kain

    Tanushree is a passionate Environmentalist with a Doctorate in Environmental Sciences. She is also a Gold medalist in Master of Science (M.Sc), Environmental Sciences. She has 6 years of experience as a guest faculty in Environmental Sciences. With her combination of technical knowledge and research expertise, she can create clear, accurate, and engaging content that helps users get the maximum information regarding environmental topics.

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