State Carbon Pollution Standards Differ

Posted May 8, 2015 at 12:39pm

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to finalize a suite of rules this summer limiting carbon pollution from new, existing and modified power plants. The regulations are all but guaranteed to solidify the country’s wholesale shift away from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables, a prospect that causes heartburn for states that are major coal producers and consumers.

The standards for the existing plant fleet aim to cut greenhouse gases nationwide 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. But that national reduction translates into varied goals among states. While Washington would have to slash carbon by nearly 72 percent, North Dakota would need to cut emissions by less than 11 percent, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

The EPA calculated proposed reduction targets for each state based on four “building blocks” — heat-rate improvements at coal plants, fuel-switching to natural gas, renewable energy deployment and energy efficiency upgrades — that can be used to generate cleaner power. But the agency has been careful to note each state can determine on its own which steps to take to reach the ultimate emissions goal.

The agency’s proposal for new power plants sets different carbon standards for coal and for natural gas, though the limit for coal could only be achieved if plant operators installed carbon capture- and-storage technology at their sites.