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EPA’s new rules for power plants mean ‘an enormous transition’ from fossil fuels

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The Environmental Protection Agency‘s new rules to limit a range of harmful pollutants from power plants, protecting the climate and human health could push utilities toward cleaner, more reliable ways to meet energy demand.

The new ways could include investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The EPA’s new rules include:
  • A rule to limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants
  • New wastewater discharge standards for coal plants
  • A coal ash rule that extends cleanup requirements to hundreds of old coal ash dumps across the country
  • Updated limits on the amount of mercury and other airborne toxics that power plants can emit
Together the rules force power plant owners to address pollutants that are fueling climate change and harming communities. The more stringent requirements should spur utilities in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and elsewhere to rethink plans to replace aging coal power plants with methane gas plants, and instead embrace the economic opportunity provided by renewable energy and the health benefits associated with cleaning up power plant pollution.
“Today’s announcement by the Biden–Harris administration marks a huge win for the country — and especially communities whose residents have suffered and fought the impacts of power plant pollution for decades,” said Tom Cormons, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. “We applaud the administration for finalizing these rules that require companies to reduce and clean up the pollution they have pushed on people and the planet for far too long. This should spur monopoly utilities to rethink their plans to spend billions of their customers’ dollars on polluting gas-fired power plants and instead lean into clean and renewable energy investments that save people money while creating good jobs.”
Despite state mandates and federal goals to greatly reduce carbon emissions by 2030, utilities, especially in the Southeast, have been moving ahead with planned gas expansions that would generate harmful and unnecessary climate emissions, raise rates for customers, and threaten reliability of the grid during extreme weather events. The planned buildouts of more than 6,000 megawatts of new gas-fired electricity capacity by the Tennessee Valley Authority and nearly 9,000 megawatts by Duke Energy in the Carolinas are the largest in the nation. Multiple studies have shown that renewable energy can meet energy demand while costing less and providing more jobs than fossil fuels.
In the South, where TVA and Duke Energy share legacies of major coal ash spills and are also advancing the two largest gas plant build-outs in the nation, these new rules will be transformative for communities who have been burdened with expensive, polluting and unreliable energy systems,” said Bri Knisley, Director of Public Power Campaigns. “People in our region deserve clean air, safe jobs, affordable and reliable electricity, and EPA’s new rules move us much closer to that promising future.”
Chelsea Barnes, Director of Government Affairs and Strategy, said the organization is thrilled about the EPA’s new rules and what they will mean for Appalachian communities.
“We know these rules mean an enormous transition for so many fossil-fuel powered communities, but with the incentives included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we are more than ready to continue our work to help power this transition,” Barnes said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.