February 29, 2024

Whitehouse Pans EPA’s Omission of Existing Gas Power Plants in Forthcoming Power Plant Rule

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today issued a statement critiquing the Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming power plant rule, which will apparently not apply to existing gas power plants. 

Fossil fuel power plants produce 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States – the largest source of carbon pollution behind transportation.  Most coal-fired power plants still in operation were built in 1970’s and 1980’s.  As they phase out, coal-fired power has been declining as coal is replaced with cheaper renewables and natural gas.  Last year, the emissions from gas-fired plants equaled emissions from the dwindling number of coal-fired plants.  From this year forward, gas-fired plants will produce the majority of the emissions from the sector.

“EPA’s new power plant rule omits a massive emissions source: existing gas power plants.  Making a rule that applies only to coal, which is dying out on its own, and to new gas power plants that are not yet built, is not how we are going to reach climate safety.  Failing to cover the plants responsible for the vast majority of future carbon pollution from the power sector makes no sense,” said Whitehouse.  “It is inexplicable that EPA, knowing of these emissions, did not focus this rulemaking on existing gas-fired plants from its inception.  EPA promises that some future proposed rule will address these emissions, but time is not on our side, and the agency’s generally lethargic rulemaking pace does not leave one optimistic.  With temperature records being broken daily and a spiraling cascade of climate-driven extreme weather events affecting families across America and the world, the planet cannot afford action at EPA’s pace.  The agency must complete a robust rule covering the existing gas fleet by the end of this year.”

It is relatively cold comfort that the forthcoming rule will cover new gas power plants, as they are estimated to account for only four percent of planned power plant capacity in 2024, as almost all new grid capacity in 2024 will be carbon-free.  Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act has helped turbocharge renewable development.

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