Obama's pending GHG rules should consider coal advancements: mining official

Washington (Platts)--9 Sep 2013 505 pm EDT/2105 GMT

US utilities have spent billions of dollars to upgrade their coal-fired power plants to meet tough new environmental regulations, but those investments could be for naught if the Obama administration issues greenhouse-gas emission rules that force the plants to shut, the head of the National Mining Association said on the Platts Energy Week television show.

"Let's not strand those investments," said NAM President Hal Quinn, in an interview that aired Sunday.

He noted that many coal-fired plants are already being retired due to economics and new environmental regulations, such as restrictions on emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and air toxics.

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New coal-fired plants with the latest technology, such as supercritical pulverized coal combustion facilities and integrated gasification combined cycle plants, are up to 40% more efficient than existing plants.

He suggested that the Obama administration should take into account that these new coal-fired plants could significantly cut GHG emissions simply by replacing older, less efficient units.

"In that regard, we can preserve our diversity of our energy mix, our electricity supply [and] cut our greenhouse-gas emissions," Quinn said. "We'll need more new plants because the shutdown of existing plants."

The Environmental Protection Agency is set this year to finalize GHG rules for new power plants and later turn its attention to GHG rules for existing power plants. The rules are expected to effectively ban the building of any new coal-fired units that do not have carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Quinn said CCS is still years away from commercial viability, and those GHG rules could stop investments altogether in making coal combustion more efficient.

"If EPA wants to issue rules that say new coal plants have to use [CCS], we don't have anything that's been integrated and fully demonstrated," he said. Quinn said industry is hoping EPA will develop an appropriate standards based on "best-in-class technology that's commercially proven today. That's a good starting point."

He said with coal being a plentiful and relatively cheap resource for electricity generation, environmental regulations that threaten the industry "are a gamble on our economic and energy future."

"This industry has never feared competition," he said. "What we're rightly concerned about is policies that don't allow us to compete. We think reliable, affordable electricity [is] perfectly aligned in the public interest."

Platts Energy Week airs on Sundays on WUSA, a CBS affiliate in Washington, as well as KUHT, a PBS affiliate in Houston and on other PBS stations in the US. The program is also available on the web at

--Herman Wang,
--Edited by Jeff Barber,

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