The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today held a legislative hearing focused on H.R. 6172, a bill to prohibit EPA from finalizing any rule imposing new standards of performance for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants until carbon capture and storage (CCS) is proven to be technologically and economically feasible. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) authored the legislation to prevent new EPA regulations from killing-off the coal industry and to ensure coal-fired power generation remains a viable and affordable electricity option for future generations.
Today's hearing continued the committee's oversight of EPA's costly regulatory agenda and follows previous subcommittee hearings focused on EPA's proposed greenhouse gas regulations, including its most recent New Source Performance Standard rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Members continue to be concerned about the impacts this proposed rule would have on jobs and the future of electricity generation in America.
"This proposed rule would do exactly what the administration set out to do from the very beginning: prohibit the future use of coal in this country. Clearly, there is a "War on Coal' being waged by this administration," said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "Just ask the 1,200 employees of Alpha Natural Resources that will be out of work soon due to recently announced mine closures forced in part by federal regulations aimed at restricting the use of coal. Or the hundreds of other miners across the coal belt who have recently received pink slips."
As currently written, the rule requires any new coal-fired plants to install costly CCS technology, but this technology is not yet commercially available and experts estimate that large scale commercialization remains several years, if not decades, away. Unless CCS technology is proven to be commercially viable and cost effective, this rule could effectively prevent the construction of any new coal-fired power plants in America.
John N. Voyles, Vice President for Transmission & Generation Services at LG&E and KU Energy LLC, explained, "Until such time as CCS technology is commercially available to be deployed at full scale in a technical and economical manner, we are concerned that any standard of performance proposed for CO2 emissions from existing or new electric generating units will effectively eliminate coal-fired generation from the nation's energy portfolio."
"Coal is an important part of America's future energy mix as it has been in the past. It is a great resource we have and we have the technologies to make it clean in all other respects," added Robert Hilton, Vice President of Power Technologies for Government Affairs at Alstom Power. "CCS is coming but preventing new highly efficient coal plants from being built to replace older less efficient plants by requiring a technology not yet in practice is not in keeping with the Agency's history or the needs of the industry or the public."
Mark McCullough, Executive Vice President of Generation at American Electric Power, echoed concerns over EPA's unrealistic timeline, stating, "A reasonable estimate for commercial availability, based on the current state of technology development, is at least ten years away, and this is assuming that current financial and regulatory barriers to demonstration projects are expeditiously removed." He also suggested that EPA's actions could actually be delaying development on this important technology, explaining, "EPA's proposed rule is likely to delay for many years the development of CCS technology, because new coal-fueled generation will not be built and, without the development of such new coal-based units in the future, the incentive to invest in and advance CCS technology will be greatly diminished."
Rep. McKinley's bill, H.R. 6172, provides that the federal government must make a finding that CCS technologically and economically achievable before finalizing any new rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
"This regulation lacks common-sense and is unreasonable," said McKinley. "EPA's ideologically driven regulations must not be implemented until the technology and economics justify the cost. This war on coal must stop."
"Only under President Obama have we seen the unprecedented step of coal being targeted for extinction. And given that coal is America's most abundant energy source, the stakes could not be higher," said Whitfield. "My subcommittee will continue to discuss this issue in the future as it is so important to ensuring consumers have affordable electricity rates and that we are able to compete in the global marketplace."