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Time's Up! Comment Period Closes On EPA's Proposal to Limit Power Plant Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Ameren Missouri's Labadie Energy Center in Labadie, Missouri.
File Photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
Update 1/7/15 The EPA has delayed their schedule to release carbon dioxide emissions rules until ‘midsummer,’ a top EPA official announced Wednesday. The final rule for new power plants had been scheduled to be published January 8, with the rules for existing and modified power plants due June 2. Now, all will be released at the same time. “We’re focused on the fact that these rules are a suite of rules affecting an industry,” acting assistant administrator Janet McCabe of the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, said on a conference call with reporters. McCabe said the agency will also develop a federal plan proposal for states to follow as they develop their own compliance plans to reduce emissions to the EPA standards. -Durrie Bouscaren

Time has run out for the public to comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

The issue has been highly contentious.

By late November, the EPA had already received more than 1.6 million comments on its proposed rule. [Update: The final tally on comments? 1,913,566.]

Under the EPA’s plan, Missouri would need to reduce its carbon emissions 21 percent by the year 2030.

John Hickey, who directs the Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter, said the state should be able to exceed that goal just by following through on existing plans.

Those include increasing investments in renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and closing down some coal-fired power plants.

“If you look at coal plants where there has already been an announced retirement date set, that gets us a big chunk of the way there,” Hickey said.

Hickey cited the example of Ameren’s Meramec power plant in South St. Louis County, which is slated for closure by 2022.

Currently, about 80 percent of Missouri’s electricity comes from burning coal.

Hickey said the new carbon limits would have the collateral benefit of improving human health by reducing other air pollutants from power plants, like sulfur dioxide and fine particulates, which can cause asthma and increase the risk of heart disease.

Hickey said it would also increase the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector and drive down electricity rates by increasing energy efficiency.

But utility companies like Ameren disagree.

In a written statement provided to St. Louis Public Radio, Ameren said the proposed rule would cause “significant" cost increases to customers and raise “serious system reliability risks.”

Ameren said the proposal sets an unrealistic timeline for compliance and that states should be given more flexibility in how to structure and implement final emission targets.

This fall, Ameren released its own 20-year energy generation plan. The company said that plan “meets the EPA's objective to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions, over a slightly longer time period, while saving our customers nearly $4 billion and protecting system reliability.”

You can read all of Ameren’s comments on the EPA’s proposed rule here, here, and here.

You can read the Sierra Club’s comments here.

The EPA has until June 1, 2015, to respond to comments and issue its final carbon dioxide standards.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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