The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release a proposal this week to impose strict limits on greenhouse gases produced by future power plants, especially those burning coal.
The EPA's plan, approved by the White House, is the first major step towards carrying out President Barack Obama's directive to federal agencies this summer to confront climate change without waiting for action from Congress, reports Politico
Coal industry groups are alarmed by the proposal.
"If reports are true, the EPA is set to issue a rule that will completely halt the development of new coal-fueled plants by requiring they meet unachievable carbon standards," Mike Duncan, CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, told Politico.
The rule would require any new plants to be built with expensive and still scarce technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, the newspaper reported.
Duncan argues that the strict limits will backfire and "destroy, not encourage, the development of new carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology."
Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for American Electric Power, agreed.
"If the coal limit does call for some level of carbon capture, we firmly believe CCS is not a demonstrated technology that meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act as a basis for [the new power plant] limit at this time," she said.
Environmental groups for their part are expected to launch a major campaign in support of the proposal.
"I fully expect that the environmental and public health communities are going to come out cheering," Clean Air Watch President Frank O'Donnell told Politico.
The new rule is also expected to play a major role in campaigns next year in coal-producing states, particularly in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. In some cases, anti-EPA Republicans are already using it against Democratic candidates.
In West Virginia, for example, Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, who is definitely not a fan of the EPA, is already under fire from the GOP just for meeting with EPA officials.
"Last month, Nick Rahall made a public show of meeting with the EPA, claiming progress in persuading them to stop its War on Coal. If this report is true, he was wrong," said state Sen. Evan Jenkins, a Democrat turned Republican who is now running against Rahall.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has already run TV ads attacking Rahall as well. One 30-second spot earlier this month highlighted his attendance at a July ceremony to rename the EPA's headquarters after former President Bill Clinton. It also focused on his support for a progressive caucus budget plan that included a carbon tax.
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Rahall told Politico at the time that he attended the Clinton ceremony so he could meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about the agency's stance on the coal industry.
"I mean, why wouldn't I go meet with her? How else are you supposed to get something done?" he told the publication more recently, adding that he has no intention of shying away from direct talks to help resolve the conflict between the coal industry and the EPA.
Rahall also stressed his own opposition to the new standards, saying, "You have to fear the worst considering the last six years or so and what has come out of EPA."
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