WASHINGTON Feb 6 Proposed pollution standards
for new U.S. power plants, a central part of the Obama
administration's climate change plan, should not rely on a
soon-to-be completed project in Mississippi as an example of how
to capture emissions from coal-fired power plants, the plant's
owner said on Thursday.
Danny Herrin, director of environmental affairs at the
Southern Co utility, was one of more than 100 witnesses
to testify at the Environmental Protection Agency's first public
hearing on its proposed rule targeting carbon emissions from new
In Kemper County, Mississippi, Southern is building one of
the world's first advanced coal-fired plants capable of
capturing carbon dioxide emissions through a process known as
carbon capture and storage (CCS).
CCS is a process of capturing carbon waste from sources such
as power plants, and transporting it to storage sites, often
The technology has not yet been deployed on a commercial
scale, but the EPA highlighted the pending Kemper project in
September when the agency unveiled plans to set strict limits on
the amount of carbon dioxide that can be generated by
newly-built U.S. power plants.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said at the time that
projects like Kemper will use CCS technology already available.
Southern Co tried to distance itself from the EPA at that time.
On Thursday, Herrin strengthened Southern Co's call on the
EPA to refrain from using Kemper as an example of the current
viability of CCS and from there justify setting tough standards
for all new coal plants.
"Kemper marks a significant technological milestone but it
is only the first step," Herrin said, adding that the EPA's
proposed standards should also not rely on the handful of other
demonstration CCS projects now being developed.
Under the Clean Air Act, the basis for the proposed power
plant rule, the EPA must set pollution standards using the "best
system of emission reduction" using technology that has been
Questions about the viability of CCS came up several times
in Thursday's hearing, from both opponents and supporters of the
proposed EPA rule.
Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California, a
leading advocate of climate legislation who plans to retire at
year-end, said on Thursday that claims that the CCS technology
isn't commercially viable were "scare tactics."
"We have decades of experience with each piece of a carbon
pollution control system," he said. "This technology is real and
Jacqui Patterson, director of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People's Climate Justice Initiative,
supported the EPA proposal but said, "we do not yet fully
understand the impacts CCS will have." EPA should encourage
investment in "proven renewable technologies," Patterson said.
Opponents, including several Republican lawmakers, have
argued that EPA's proposal may violate the Energy Policy Act of
2005 because it relied on three projects - including Kemper -
that have received federal funding to determine that CCS is
The law says that projects receiving assistance from the
entities like the U.S. Department of Energy cannot be the sole
factor in determining that a technology is viable.
"We cannot rely on taxpayer funding to bring this technology
to every power plant in America - it's simply not feasible,"
West Virginia Republican Representative Shelley Moore Capito
said on Thursday.
The EPA on Thursday issued a notice for public comment to
demonstrate that it did not rely solely on the federally-funded
projects to show CCS was the best available technology, but also
considered "other information."