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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Biden Administration Proposes New Rule Mandating 90% Cuts to Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Climate Justice Alliance: Carbon capture and sequestration is not a real solution and will further harm environmental justice communities

Published on May 12, 2023

On Thursday, President Biden announced a proposed new climate rule that would require most fossil fuel power plants to slash their greenhouse gas pollution by 90 percent between 2035 and 2040 — or shut down.

At face value, the rule looks to encourage power providers to hasten their decisions to shut down aging coal-fired power plants. However, the EPA rule will allow fossil fuel corporations to maintain or expand other fossil fuel-powered plants to “capture” greenhouse gas emissions and store it underground – a technology that is not economically feasible, safe for communities, or even proven to work at the rate needed to address the problem. This ruling from the EPA will also encourage a boom in hydrogen development, which is energy intensive to produce, can produce health-damaging air pollution when combusted, and is a play by the fossil fuel industry to extend its viability and profits.

In reaction to the announcement, Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Co-Executive Director at the Climate Justice Alliance, a national nonprofit representing 89  rural and urban community-based environmental justice organizations and supporting networks, issued the following statement:

“Today’s proposed rule from the Biden Administration to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants is critical recognition that we must cut climate pollution if our communities are to survive.

“But if we are to combat climate change, we must do so with real, viable solutions – not unproven technologies that only promise to continue the legacy of dumping pollutants onto frontline communities.

“Let’s be clear: Carbon capture and sequestration technologies are harmful and unproven. They do not operate at scale, and to expand carbon capture to a fraction of what is envisioned by this order would require constructing thousands of miles of polluting pipelines into communities already most impacted by the burning of fossil fuels. A study in the European Union showed that adding Carbon Capture to power plants increased Nitrogen Oxides by 44%, particulate matter by 33%, and ammonia by a whopping 30-fold increase. CCS projects will exacerbate environmental disparities and lead to more environmental racism. This is a distraction – one that will let fossil fuel extraction continue unchecked.

“While we recognize the Biden Administration’s ambitious goal of combating carbon pollution and shutting down polluting power plants – we demand real, community-based climate and energy solutions, not more false promises for the sake of the fossil fuel industry. We need bold action. It’s time Biden declared a national climate emergency!”

Reacting to the Biden Administration’s specific focus on carbon capture and hydrogen technology, Juan Jhong Chung, Policy Director at the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and member of the Climate Justice Alliance, added:

“It is shameful that only weeks after President Biden signed an Environmental Justice executive order, the EPA is mandating policies that benefit the fossil fuel industry and investor-owned utilities at the expense of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Carbon capture technology and hydrogen will increase local air pollution, taint clean drinking water, threaten the safety of communities in the path of new pipelines, and raise energy bills for families nationwide. Deploying CCS in coal and gas plants, or blending hydrogen and fossil gas will not reduce carbon emissions, but it will continue the pattern of sacrificing disadvantaged communities for the benefit of greedy corporations. Tackling the climate crisis means shutting down fossil fuel power plants and ensuring a Just Transition to renewable energy. Our government must reject these failed technologies that enable more environmental racism.”

Teri Blanton, former chairperson at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and member of the Climate Justice Alliance, added:

“Communities and workers most affected by extraction, processing, and burning coal are demanding climate solutions that lower our energy bills, protect our health, and create family-sustaining jobs. This ain’t it. Carbon capture is an expensive scam. Even big coal now opposes this rule, after falsely pushing the myth of so-called clean coal for decades. It’s time to listen to frontline communities, retire fossil fuel infrastructure, and invest in a Just Transition to clean energy with solutions that do not further harm our communities.”

Environmental Reporter