EPA Indefinitely Delays Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Rules

Just two weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew its smog rule, the agency on Thursday confirmed it would not meet a Sept. 30, 2011, deadline for issuing proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and existing power plants. The agency did not specify a new deadline for proposing the rule.

“EPA has engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest and best information prior to proposing pollution standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants, one of the largest stationary sources of carbon pollution,” the agency said in statement. “We will fully consider all this information to develop smart, cost-effective and protective standards.”

The agency was expected to meet the deadline and finalize the rule by May 26, 2012, as required by a December 2010 settlement agreement between the agency, several states, and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund. But the agency has not yet sent the rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, a process that could take up to 90 days.

The EPA has already deferred the proposal once this year.

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Originally, the settlement agreement called for the EPA to release the standards by July 26, 2011. The agency will likely negotiate a new deadline with the environmental groups, industry sources say.

President Obama earlier this month shelved the EPA’s draft final rule, "Reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone Primary and Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)," to reduce “regulatory burdens and uncertainty.”

In a related story, the EPA reportedly asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to resume litigation and issue a briefing schedule concerning a challenge to the 2008 NAAQS standard for ozone. The lawsuit had been suspended while the agency reconsidered the rule.

The lawsuit, Mississippi v. EPA, was brought against the EPA by a number of states and environmental groups in 2008. Those groups argued the rule was too weak.

Sources: POWERnews, EPA