U.S. EPA to propose easing rules on new coal plants

Source EIA

Source EIA

The Trump administration would greenlight new coal plants that use newer and more efficient boilers and related technology, the Times reports, citing officials familiar with the proposal.

Americans are consuming less coal in 2018 than at any time since Jimmy Carter's presidency, a federal report said Tuesday, as cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy frustrate the Trump administration's pledges to revive the US coal industry.

The electric power sector is the nation's largest consumer of coal, accounting for 93% of total USA coal consumption between 2007 and 2018, says EIA. About 93 percent of all domestic coal is consumed by the electric power sector, which has been facing mass retirements of plants because of cheaper options like natural gas. He and other Republicans frequently attacked President Obama for his increased regulations of the industry.

During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump repeatedly told crowds in coal-reliant regions of the country that as President he would 'bring back coal.' Trump carried the state of West Virginia by more than 40 points over Hillary Clinton largely over his pledge to bring coal jobs back to hard hit communities in Appalachia.

Federal government figures continue to show otherwise, however, as market forces inexorably tamp down coal demand. The rules required new coal plants to emit no more than 1,400 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh), a constraint that is almost impossible for new coal generators to meet without carbon-capture technology.

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The move dovetails with the EPA's separate effort to dramatically weaken an Obama administration regulation limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Tougher pollution rules are also causing coal to lose some market shares. Natural gas prices have stayed relatively low since USA domestic natural gas production began to grow in 2007.

Ironically, the new tax law approved by the Republican-controlled Congress has encouraged coal plants to close, as utilities use a provision that allows them to accelerate depreciation costs for closing plants, he said. So far in 2018, 11 GW of coal-fired generating capacity has retired through September, and another 3 GW is expected to retire in the final three months of the year, based on data reported to EIA by plant owners and operators.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from media.

Appearing before the National Petroleum Council in Washington on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry devoted much of his remarks to urging development of natural gas and petrochemical industries in Appalachian coal country. Next year, it's expected to drop by 8 percent.

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