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Biden admin punts major power plant crackdown until after 2024 election

The Biden administration is delaying highly-anticipated environmental regulations targeting existing natural gas power plants until after the 2024 election.

The Biden administration is punting on finalizing the bulk of proposed environmental regulations targeting existing fossil fuel-fired power plants until after the upcoming election.

In an unexpected announcement Thursday evening, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its "new" approach to regulating emissions from fossil fuel plants, which generate more than 60% of the nation's electricity. Under the plan, EPA will move forward with parts of its power plant proposal unveiled in May 2023, but delay any regulations impacting existing natural gas plants until late this year or next year.

"As EPA works towards final standards to cut climate pollution from existing coal and new gas-fired power plants later this spring, the Agency is taking a new, comprehensive approach to cover the entire fleet of natural gas-fired turbines, as well as cover more pollutants including climate, toxic and criteria air pollution," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

"This stronger, more durable approach will achieve greater emissions reductions than the current proposal," he continued.


EPA's sudden shift, first reported by The New York Times, comes amid intense pressure from a wide range of business groups, energy associations, manufacturers, grid operators and lawmakers who have blasted the agency's original proposal as too burdensome. 

Critics warned that cracking down on gas plants — the single largest source of electricity in the U.S., providing power to tens of millions of homes annually — would have severe consequences for Americans.


On May 11, 2023, EPA unveiled the original proposal which it said would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 617 million metric tons through 2042. The proposal relies heavily on carbon capture, a nascent and costly technology that removes emissions from the air, essentially forcing plants to adopt such technology or shut down.

While that proposal would have impacted existing and future natural gas and coal power plants, under the new plan announced Thursday, it will exempt existing natural gas plants. All coal-fired plants and future natural gas plants will still be impacted when EPA finalizes the regulations in the coming weeks. 

But the agency will now issue an entirely separate proposal covering existing natural gas plants months from now.

"Sierra Club supports the Biden administration’s new strategy to address a broad range of pollutants emitted by gas-fired power plants," Ben Jealous, the executive director of environmental group Sierra Club, said Thursday. "Strong protections against gas plant emissions will help the United States meet its international climate commitments while protecting the most vulnerable communities from the pollution contaminating their air."

"We look forward to working closely with the Biden EPA to quickly implement the building blocks of its new multi-pollutant approach for gas plants to ensure the strongest possible protections for our environment and public health," he added.

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