The Biden administration is reportedly finalizing a proposal that would force fossil fuel-fired power plants to substantially curb emissions or utilize costly carbon capture technology.
The proposal — which will soon be released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — is expected to require coal- and natural gas-fired power plants to cut or capture the vast majority of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2040, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing officials briefed on a draft of the plan. The regulation, if finalized, would represent the first-ever federal action curbing power plant emissions.
"EPA cannot comment because the proposals are currently under interagency review," EPA spokesperson Maria Michalos told Fox News Digital in a statement.
"But we have been clear from the start that we will use all of our legally-upheld tools, grounded in decades-old bipartisan laws, to address dangerous air pollution and protect the air our children breathe today and for generations to come," Michalos said.
An Office of Management and Budget filing from late last year stated that the EPA anticipates issuing a proposed rule for the action, described as a proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired plants, in spring 2023 and promulgating a final rule by summer 2024. The filing noted there are no EPA regulations on the books limiting emissions from existing electric generating units.
Overall, there are 3,393 fossil fuel-fired power plants nationwide, the majority of which are natural gas plants, according to the most recent federal data. Those plants generate more than 60% of the nation's electricity, compared to the roughly 14% of electricity generated by wind and solar projects.
However, EPA data shows that the electric power sector accounts for about 25% of total U.S. emissions, placing it behind only the transportation sector and slightly ahead of the industrial sector. As such, fossil fuel power plants have been targeted by environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers who argue that emissions must be reduced in an effort to stave off cataclysmic climate change.
Shortly after he took office, President Biden pledged to enable the nation to achieve an up to 52% total emission reduction by 2030 and to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.
"Setting effective, affordable power plant carbon standards under the Clean Air Act now can ensure that the power industry delivers the emissions reductions needed to help meet the climate crisis," argued an issue brief released this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an influential environmental group. "Time is of the essence."
"The EPA needs to move expeditiously, proposing power plant carbon standards soon as promised and finalizing them by early next year," the brief added. "This will allow states and power companies to get to work on implementing them, so we can curb this dangerous pollution and safeguard the climate as soon as possible."
However, the fossil fuel industry has pushed back, arguing the U.S. power grid is still deeply reliant on coal, natural gas and petroleum.
"The expected EPA regulation is just the latest in President Biden’s anti-fossil fuels agenda, coercing the retirement of electricity sources that are needed during the grid transition," Michelle Bloodworth, the president and CEO of America’s Power, a coal power trade group, told Fox News Digital.
"EPA’s actions are contrary to the concerns of grid operators and other energy experts who have warned about possible electricity shortages," she continued.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2022 that an Obama-era rule limiting power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act was unconstitutional, since Congress never granted the EPA the explicit power to issue such regulations. But the Inflation Reduction Act passed two months after that ruling allows the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.