The EPA’s Carbon Capture Flip-Flop: One of the agency’s own regional offices and a panel of EPA judges have ruled that the policy is too expensive.

From: The Wall Street Journal

By Brian H. Potts/Foley & Lardner LLP

With great fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule last fall that would require all newly built coal-fired power plants in the U.S. to install an expensive new technology called carbon capture and storage, or CCS. Although the technology has never been installed on a large-scale power plant anywhere in the world, it theoretically will separate the primary greenhouse gas—carbon dioxide—from the plant’s exhaust and pump it to underground reservoirs for storage. 

The proposal instantly set off controversy. Many technical experts (including Burton Richter, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at Stanford) believe that CCS isn’t ready for prime time. EPA’s proposal claims it is adequately demonstrated and can be installed at a reasonable cost. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to establish both of these factors before forcing plants to install a particular technology. 

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Last week, three administrative law judges on the agency’s Environmental Appeals Board upheld the Texas office’s decision not to require CCS. Why? Because the EPA regional office found, and the judges agreed, that the “addition of CCS would increase the total capital project costs by more than 25%.

 

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