The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized an agreement to extend until Sept. 30 the deadline for proposing greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for fossil fuel power plants, giving older less-efficient coal-fired plants a temporary reprieve.

The deadline, which had been July 26, was pushed back following “an extensive and open public process,” during which stakeholders “presented the agency with important input which deserves to be fully considered as the agency works to develop smart, cost-effective and protective standards,” EPA said.

The deadline for final standards remains May 26, 2012.

The postponement comes less than six months after EPA issued its plan to regulate GHG pollution under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries, two of the largest sources of GHG emissions in the United States (see Power Market Today, Dec. 27, 2010). But “it’s important to note it only impacts power plants,” EPA spokeswoman Catherine Milbourn told NGI. “This has no impact on the previously announced schedule for refineries,” which calls for EPA to propose those standards in December.

EPA’s air quality regulations have been sharply criticized by the industry and members of Congress who say the new rules will stifle job growth and push energy prices higher.

In March the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power voted out legislation (HR 910) that would bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions under the CAA (see Daily GPI, March 11). Similar measures seeking to tie the EPA’s hands have been introduced in the Senate. A bill unveiled by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) would strip away the EPA’s authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants, refineries and other stationary sources. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) has proposed to block the Obama administration’s regulation of GHG emissions from stationary sources without specific authorization from Congress (see Daily GPI, Feb. 1).

A House subcommittee last month voted to favorably report on a bill that would require an analysis of the cumulative economic impact of actions proposed by EPA (see Daily GPI, May 25).

Older, smaller coal-fired plants will likely fade away as the EPA implements rules to carry out the Clean Air Transport Rule, the Air Toxics Rule, coal combustion residuals, and cooling water intake structure standards, according to a recent report from consulting firm ICF International (see Daily GPI, May 12).

Last week American Electric Power (AEP) said it would spend $6-8 billion by the end of the decade to retire nearly 6,000 MW of coal-fueled power generation and other actions in an effort to comply with a series of regulations proposed by EPA (see Daily GPI, June 13). The economic impact of proposed EPA regulations “will extend far beyond direct employment at power plants” and could include 10-35% electricity price increases for businesses, said AEP CEO Michael Morris. He continued to rail against the stricter EPA pollution regulations, citing support in the Congress to call a halt to EPA actions.

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