Coal Industry: EPA Modelling Shows Clean Power Plan Understates Power Plant Closures

Published December 22, 2016

In a letter provided to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hearing states’ and industries’ challenges to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), lawyers representing the National Mining Association (NMA) argued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grossly overstated the number of coal-fired power plants that would retire over the next decade in absence of the CPP.

In addition, NMA said new EPA modeling supports its claim EPA underestimated the number coal fired power plants that would have to be prematurely shuttered to meet the CPP’s carbon dioxide reduction targets.

“EPA’s latest modeling confirms its repeated statements that the rule will transform the power sector,” Peter Glaser, an attorney for the association, said in the letter to the court of appeals, as reported by Greenwire.

New Models = New Estimates

As part of EPA’s recent regulations limiting cross-border state air pollution, it conducted new modeling, not available when the CPP was finalized. EPA’ new modeling estimates there would be 268 gigawatts of coal generation in 2016, significantly more than the 214 GW of coal generated power EPA said would exist when issuing the CPP.

“What is certain is that considerably more coal is in service today than EPA said when it issued the CPP,” the NMA letter said according to Greenwire, “and that amount must fall significantly to meet the CPP’s requirements.”

Based on EPA’s updated modelling, coal-fired power generation would have decline by a third through the premature closure of plants, to meet the CPP’s targets.

The court is expected to issue a decision in early 2017, although the status of the CPP may be in flux by then as it is unclear President-elect Trump, who has said he will repeal the CPP, will direct EPA or the Justice Department to continue defending the CPP in court going forward.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.