Biden EPA to tackle carbon in coal industry with rules on other pollutants

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to impose new limits on traditional pollutants such as ozone and coal ash to encourage the retirement of the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants, after the Supreme Court overturned the agency’s ability to impose sweeping climate regulations. had limited, according to EPA chief Michael Regan.

The approach reflects how the administration of US President Joe Biden plans to push ahead with targets to decarbonise the energy sector, despite the recent court ruling. The energy industry is the source of a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gases, and Biden campaigned for a pledge to cut net emissions to zero by 2035.

“Shall [the Supreme Court decision] limit what we could do and the flexibility we could offer the energy sector? Absolutely,” Regan said in an interview with Reuters. “But are we deterred? Absolutely not. EPA is still in play.”

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Regan, who spoke to Reuters during a tour from polluted sites in Puerto Rico, said the court’s ruling would mean a rule the EPA hopes to unveil next year to tackle carbon emissions from power plants will be narrower than it otherwise would have been.

But he said the EPA is also working on several other regulations targeting power plants, including requirements for the disposal of toxic coal ash and improvements to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. When combined, the rules will signal to the U.S. energy sector that clean energy is the most cost-effective way to comply, he said.

“We want to present a set of regulations to the industry so that they can make the best long-term investments possible,” said Regan. “The energy industry will … look at the cost benefit of meeting this and more than likely stick to the conclusion that … clean energy is more cost-effective for them and for their customers,” he said.

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Biden’s Democratic predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, was criticized by Republicans and fossil fuel proponents for trying to use the EPA to regulate the coal industry.

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision limiting the EPA’s authority to take a system-wide approach to decarbonizing the energy sector, saying such important policies need Congress’ support. A new law authorizing the EPA to take such action is now unlikely due to deep division in Congress over climate change.

Senate Democrats this week struck a deal to spend nearly $370 billion on climate and energy security after more than a year of negotiations, marking a major compromise to Biden’s initial sweeping legislative ambitions.

The Supreme Court decision and Congressional opposition are widely seen as major setbacks to the Biden administration’s efforts to create global leadership on climate. The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, and Biden has urged international partners to accelerate their clean energy transition to combat climate change.

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Regan called the Supreme Court decision “out of step” with public demands for faster action on climate change, but added that the EPA had been preparing for the outcome.

“We knew that we would not get a favorable decision with the composition of this court and that is why the Biden administration has been working on solutions to design regulations for power plants from day one,” he said.

U.S. energy sector carbon emissions have already fallen sharply in recent years as utilities retire old coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas, solar and wind power — a shift driven by falling prices for these resources and state and federal incentives for them. renewable energy .

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