Biden's New Power Plant Emissions Rules Could Force Coal and Gas Plants to Close by 2035, Warns NextEra Energy

Biden admin finalizes stringent power plant emissions rules, aiming to accelerate fossil fuel phaseout by 2035 despite industry pushback over feasibility and reliability concerns.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Biden's New Power Plant Emissions Rules Could Force Coal and Gas Plants to Close by 2035, Warns NextEra Energy

Biden's New Power Plant Emissions Rules Could Force Coal and Gas Plants to Close by 2035, Warns NextEra Energy

The Biden administration has finalized a set of stringent regulations targeting carbon dioxide emissions, toxic air pollution, water pollution, and land contamination from fossil fuel power plants. The new rules, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday, could compel many coal and natural gas plants to close by 2035 unless they undertake costly upgrades to capture their emissions.

NextEra Energy, a major U.S. utility company, has cautioned that the proposed power plant emissions rules could lead to the shutdown of coal and gas plants by 2035. The rules require existing coal plants to eliminate 90% of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2032 if they plan to operate after 2039, and impose similar standards on new natural gas plants.

The utility industry has expressed concerns about the feasibility and reliability impacts of these rules, arguing they are "unlawful, unrealistic and unachievable." However, the EPA claims the rules will reduce pollution, improve public health, and support the reliable long-term supply of electricity while providing significant climate and public health benefits that offset the costs to utilities.

Why this matters: The new power plant emissions rules are part of the Biden administration's broader efforts to tackle climate change and eliminate carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and the entire economy by 2050. The rules could have far-reaching implications for the U.S. energy landscape, potentially accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources.

The power plant rules are expected to face legal challenges from industry groups and Republican-leaning states, who have accused the administration of overreach on environmental regulations and warned of a looming reliability crisis for the electric grid. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has already vowed to take action against the regulations.

The Edison Electric Institute, an investor-owned utility trade group, expressed disappointment that the EPA did not heed its concerns around the viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which the rules rely on for compliance. Some utilities are skeptical that CCS will be the best method to comply by the 2032 deadline, citing a lack of infrastructure.

Despite the challenges, the Biden administration believes the new rules will drive down power sector emissions and help cement the president's climate legacy ahead of the 2024 election. The EPA estimates the rules will avoid 1.38 billion metric tons of carbon pollution through 2047, equivalent to the annual emissions of 328 million gas cars, while creating jobs and providing hundreds of billions of dollars in climate and health benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Biden admin finalizes strict power plant emissions rules to cut CO2, pollution by 2035.
  • Rules require 90% CO2 cuts for coal plants, similar standards for new natural gas plants.
  • Utility industry warns rules are "unlawful, unrealistic and unachievable", face legal challenges.
  • Rules aim to accelerate transition from fossil fuels, support Biden's climate goals by 2050.
  • EPA estimates rules will avoid 1.38 billion metric tons of carbon pollution by 2047.