War on coal, phase two: EPA finally publishes rules for new power plants

It’s already been three months since the Obama administration debuted their draft proposal detailing what is, for all currently practicable purposes, a ban on the construction of coal-fired power plants (and even that reveal was the result of still another months-long delay as the administration struggled to formulate the rules in a way that could both survive the inevitable legal challenges while not restricting greenhouse-gas emissions so stringently as to disqualify even the construction of new natural gas plants — overzealous, much?). The rule finally hit the pages of the Federal Register today, opening up the formal 60-day period for comments — of which I am certain there will be a veritable deluge, because coal country has been in an uproar over the incoming rules. Via HuffPo:

The Environmental Protection Agency will finally publish notice of new proposed rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants on Wednesday, more than three months after announcing the rules last September.

The rules are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 8. The lag time between the announcement of the rules on Sept. 20 and their publication has prompted conjecture as to the reason for the delay, from prosaic possibilities like the government shutdown in October to more significant ones, like potential problems discovered in the legal underpinnings for the rules.

The draft rules are the first ever to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The rules require that new power plants be built with carbon capture and storage capabilities if they burn coal, or that they burn lower-emission fuels like natural gas. The rule has drawn criticism from coal industry supporters who say that carbon capture technology is not sufficiently developed at this point to be viable.

Of course, this is happening out front of the introduction of emissions regulations on existing power plants due to come out this June (although I’d probably count on those being delayed, too), because what reasonable administration could ever simply be content with the hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of regulatory compliance costs they have already imposed upon our struggling economy? It’s all a part of their munificent ambitions to maneuver around that spitefully obstructionist Congress and work their climate-change will via executive action. They don’t really expect this round of regulations on new power plants in and of itself to lower carbon emissions much, because a good deal of the recent investment in the industry has been going toward the cleaner natural-gas plants thriving on the ongoing fracking boom — but the Obama administration is actively assuring that coal’s affordable, reliable energy source won’t be available if the market should ever swing the other way for whatever reason. Reasons like, say, the ones undermining Germany’s misbegotten quest to speedily foist mostly renewable energy forms upon the masses and resulting in the most coal use they’ve had since 1990. Woops, via the Financial Times:

Brown coal electricity production in Germany rose last year to its highest level since 1990, despite the country’s campaign to shift to green sources of energy.

Germany, which is the world’s largest brown coal miner, last year used the fuel – also known as lignite – to generate 162bn kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to EnergieBilanz, an electricity industry association. That is up from 161bn kWh in 2012 and the highest total since the 171bn kWh recorded in 1990, when east Germany’s ex-Communist plants were still in full flow.