Biden admin cracks down on power plants fueling nation’s grid

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The Biden administration finalized highly anticipated regulations on Thursday, cracking down on existing and future fossil fuel-fired power plants as part of its sweeping climate agenda.

In a joint announcement, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House officials said the rules would target all coal-fired power generation and future natural gas power plants. The regulations, according to the officials, will help the nation meet President Biden’s goals of decarbonizing the nation’s power grid and transitioning to green energy sources like wind and solar.

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“Today, EPA is proud to make good on the Biden-Harris administration’s vision to tackle climate change and to protect all communities from pollution in our air, water, and in our neighborhoods,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. 

“By developing these standards in a clear, transparent, inclusive manner, EPA is cutting pollution while ensuring that power companies can make smart investments and continue to deliver reliable electricity for all Americans.”

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Michael Regan speaks as President Biden listens

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks as President Biden listens in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 16. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Under the regulations, all coal-fired plants that are slated to remain operational in the long-term and all new baseload gas-fired plants will be required to control 90% of their carbon emissions. According to the Energy Information Administration, at least 20 natural gas-fired power plants are expected to come online in 2024 and 2025, with a total capacity of 7.7 gigawatts, enough to power millions of homes.

In addition, EPA’s rulemaking tightens emissions standards for coal-fired plants related to toxic metal and wastewater discharge.

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“President Biden’s leadership has not only sparked an unprecedented expansion in clean electricity generation, his leadership has also launched an American manufacturing renaissance,” senior White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi said Thursday in a statement.

“This is how we win the future, by harnessing new technologies to grow our economy, deliver environmental justice, and save the planet for future generations.”

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The American Lung Association and environmental groups like BlueGreen Alliance quickly applauded the regulations on Thursday.

A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station

A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

EPA initially unveiled the regulations in a May 2023 proposal, which was applauded by environmental groups and Democrats, but received criticism from business groups, energy associations, manufacturers, grid operators and Republicans, including several state attorneys general who threatened legal action. 

That proposal included rules for existing gas plants, but those rules were stripped from the actions finalized Thursday. EPA said in late February it would finalize environmental regulations for existing gas generation in several months.

According to federal data, natural gas and coal generate 43% and 16% of the nation’s power, respectively. Alternatively, wind and solar generate 10% and 4% of the nation’s power.

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Since the administration proposed the regulations last year, critics have warned that cracking down on coal power and gas plants — the single largest source of electricity in the U.S., the federal data showed — will have severe consequences for Americans in the form of blackouts and higher energy prices. 

President Biden and EPA Administrator Michael Regan asplit

President Biden, left, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan. (Getty Images)

“We’re concerned it’s going to impact the reliability of our grid,” National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson told Fox News Digital. “This is a grid that is already under a lot of stress because electric demand is growing at a rapid rate in this country, which is actually, in many ways, good news in terms of economic growth.”

“But supply is not keeping up,” he added. “And this rule is going to further cause deterioration in the quality of our supply to meet that demand.”

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In August, meanwhile, four nonpartisan grid operators that collectively provide power to 154 million Americans warned EPA’s regulations as proposed would cause grid reliability to “dwindle to concerning levels.” The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which oversees the entire U.S. grid, forecasted months later that there will be future power supply crunches as a result of premature power plant retirements.

The regulations are also the subject of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the House Oversight Committee. And, separately, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, vowed Thursday to soon introduce a resolution overturning the regulations.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 26, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“With the latest iteration of the illegal Clean Power Plan 2.0 announced today, President Biden has inexplicably doubled down on his plans to shut down the backbone of America’s electric grid through unachievable regulatory mandates,” Capito said in a statement.

“Electricity demand is set to skyrocket thanks in part to the EPA’s own electric vehicles mandate, and unfortunately, Americans are already paying higher utility bills under President Biden,” she continued. “Despite all this, the administration has chosen to press ahead with its unrealistic climate agenda that threatens access to affordable, reliable energy for households and employers across the country.”

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Democrats and environmentalists have long targeted the power sector over its high emissions as part of their efforts to stave off cataclysmic climate change. Shortly after he took office, Biden pledged to enable the nation to achieve an up to 52% total emission reduction by 2030 and to create a carbon-free power sector by 2035.



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