Monday, March 17, 2008

Coal Moratorium Law

Will our SC delegation vote for it?

Top House Dems offer bill to stop coal plants
Darren Samuelsohn, E&ENews PM senior reporter

Two top House Democrats introduced
legislation today that would prevent the permitting of coal-fired power plants that cannot capture and sequester most greenhouse-gas emissions.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said their bill should give the electric utility industry and its investors a clear signal that a new U.S. climate policy is on the way.

"Comprehensive economy-wide regulation to address global warming is coming soon," Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a press release. "But new uncontrolled coal-fired power plants are being built today."

Under the bill, U.S. EPA and all state permitting agencies would face a moratorium on issuing permits for any electric utility that does not capture and permanently sequester at least 85 percent of its heat-trapping emissions. The moratorium would stay in place until Congress or EPA adopts a mandatory measure that limits midcentury greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels.

"This bill will make companies prepare for the future and prevent them from building low-tech coal fired power plants before a global warming bill is passed that will necessitate the use of the newest, most climate-friendly technologies," said Markey, the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

According to a recent Energy Department
analysis, 47 coal-fired power plants are in either the permitting or the construction phase across the country -- but only a small number have the capacity to capture their greenhouse-gas emissions. Another 67 plants are in earlier stages of development.

'A common sense policy'

The Waxman-Markey legislation becomes the latest piece to a climate debate already brewing on Capitol Hill. The two lawmakers rank Nos. 2 and 3 in terms of seniority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but they are often among a select few to push such far-reaching environmental measures.

A senior Waxman aide predicted the bill would get other lawmakers' attention. "The prospects for this legislation are excellent because it is such a common sense policy," the aide said.

Speaking earlier today with reporters, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said there is a greater than 50-50 chance that a cap-and-trade bill limiting U.S. emissions will make it into law this year.

Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, also addressed the specific carbon capture technologies that Waxman and Markey would envision requiring right now of the electric utility industry.

Under conservative estimates, Boucher said carbon capture technologies would not be commercially available until about 2025. "This isn't rocket science at all," Boucher said during a news conference hosted by Platts.

"It isn't even auto mechanics. ... It will work."

House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) "welcomes contributions from all members and plans to review this proposal," a spokesman for the lawmaker said.

Sierra Club national coal campaign director Bruce Niles said the Waxman-Markey legislation would challenge electric utility companies into following through on their multimillion-dollar commercial campaign aimed at promoting "clean" coal technologies. "This bill holds them to their rhetoric and will demonstrate whether there is any truth behind the industry's slick public relations campaign," he said.

But Edison Electric Institute spokesman Dan Riedinger rejected the bill's underlying premise.

"The power sector is keenly aware of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but this bill isn't going to get us there," Riedinger said. "Halting coal plant construction will do almost nothing to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, yet it will leave U.S. consumers exposed to higher and more volatile energy prices at a time when they can least afford it."

Click here to view the bill from Reps. Waxman and Markey.

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