Trump's EPA Looks To Keep Coal-Fired Power Plants Alive

Dec 7, 2018

Credit Stephanie Joyce

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions on an Obama-era regulation limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The EPA wrote that the rule discouraged new coal development by requiring unproven carbon capture technology. Wyoming Mining Association's Travis Deti said there's still a lot of uncertainty around coal, but this deregulation could help that.

"If it goes through, we'll be able to build some new coal-fired power plants. Whether utilities decide to do that, it's an onerous regulation out of the way," he said.

The Trump Administration has sought to improve the outlook for coal despite the competition from natural gas and renewables, and the concern for how coal contributes to climate change. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy looked to provide a subsidy to keep coal-fired power plants alive.

But Clark Williams Derry, the director of energy finance at Sightline Institute, an environmental research center, said this revised EPA performance standard likely won't have an impact.

"[Coal-fired power plants are] under pressure because they're just not economical. No little tweak around the edges of the regulatory system is going to actually change that," he said.

Several reports show coal is still on its way out due to increasingly competitive natural gas and renewables. Nearly 40 percent of the existing coal fleet has already retired or is set to retire, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The rate of coal plant retirements doubled in 2018 from last year, according to S & P global market intelligence. A recent presentation from Pacificorp's showed many of its coal units are more expensive than alternate options.

The EPA will open two months of public comment once the revised rule is posted in the federal register.