Federal officials proposed on Tuesday the first-ever greenhouse gas limits for new power plants, a move that could affect a planned $6 billion coal-fired power plant in Surry County.
Announced byU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyAdministrator Lisa Jackson, the rules aim to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that the EPA says contributes to respiratory ailments and premature deaths.
“Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put in our skies — and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow,” Jackson said in a statement.
The rules, which the EPA says are mandated under the federal Clean Air Act, would not apply to existing power plants or plants that will start construction during the next 12 months.
The Dendron Town Council earlier this month approved zoning permits that would allow Old Dominion Electric Cooperative to build the Surry plant. About 25 miles west of Newport News, the plant would be the state’s largest at 1,500 megawatts, enough power for 375,000 households.
The cooperative hoped to start construction in 2010, but lawsuits and other delays forced it to push back the project. The cooperative remains committed to building the plant but no construction start date is set, spokesman Bill Sherrod said. He was unsure how the EPA proposal could affect the cooperative’s plans.
“The staff members at Old Dominion have to look at it,” he said.
The rules are the Obama administration’s latest effort to to curb greenhouse gases. Plans are in place that will cut pollution from the nation’s ports, including Hampton Roads, and automakers in 2010 agreed to new fuel economy standards.
Countering past Republican claims, Jackson said the rules would not kill the coal industry. They do, however, favor natural gas and other energy sources that produce less greenhouse gas.
Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest electricity provider, has already pivoted away from coal in favor of natural gas, which is relatively inexpensive due to new deposits found under shale rock across the United States.