EPA official warns WAPA could face more stringent standards
Published: September 23, 2013
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ST. CROIX - A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official said that a proposal the agency announced Friday to cut carbon pollution from new power plants - and a separate proposal expected next year that would set carbon pollution standards for existing power plants - should be of particular interest to the territory.
The proposed new Clean Air Act standards are targeted at combating climate change and improving public health, according to the EPA. The agency also began outreach as it works to establish carbon pollution standards for existing power plants and build on state efforts to move toward cleaner energy.
EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck told The Daily News on Friday that she thinks the move "should be of great interest" to the U.S. Caribbean islands, because the islands "are incredibly vulnerable to climate change impacts," including sea level rise.
"We hope that this will result in less-intense tropical storms and not such a drastic increase in temperatures," Enck said.
In a statement issued Friday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that climate change "is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. By taking common sense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children.
"These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy," she said.
Under the proposal for new power plants, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, according to the EPA.
The proposal also has separate standards for new coal-fired units.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority burns fuel oil to generate power, although it is in the process of diversifying its fuel sources.
WAPA is upgrading so that its turbines can burn propane for fuel by late next year and also plans to add the ability to burn liquefied natural gas in the future. In addition, WAPA is in the process of adding renewable energy, including solar power, to the grid.
Enck said that as WAPA officials consider how they want to invest in the future, they should keep in mind the fact that EPA will be developing a different set of proposed rules for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants during the next year.
"In a year, we will be out with another set of regulations for existing power plants," she said. "Certainly WAPA should not wait. They need to know these regulations on existing facilities are coming very soon."
The proposed rules for new power plants that were announced Friday will enter a 60-day public comment period after they are published in the Federal Register. The EPA will take comments into account as it completes the rule-making process.
Enck noted that a previous version of the proposed regulation received 2.5 million public comments. The proposed rule is the result of slight revisions because of that process.
"Our hope is to have this in place in about a year," Enck said.
According to the EPA statement, the proposal "achieves the first milestone outlined in President Obama's June 25 Memorandum to EPA on 'Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards,' a major part of the President's Climate Action Plan."
Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, accounting for roughly one-third of domestic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA.
However, although the U.S. has limits in place for the amount of arsenic, mercury and lead pollution that power plants can emit, currently, there are no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit.
In 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans' health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.
The other part of Friday's announcement is that the EPA has started reaching out to a "wide variety of stakeholders" to get input on developing emission guidelines for existing power plants.
"EPA intends to work closely with the states to ensure strategies for reducing carbon pollution from existing sources are flexible, account for regional diversity, and embrace common sense solutions, allowing the United States to continue utilizing every fuel source available," according to the statement.
Enck said the EPA will conduct listening sessions in the territory, and she plans to be in the territory to talk with local officials in November.
In accordance with the June 25 Presidential Memorandum, the EPA is to issue proposed standards for existing power plants by June 1, 2014.
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