Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram

“This is not a pomp and circumstance firm.”

Marty Saturn – Executive Vice President, Meisel Capital Partners

Power plant technology not keeping pace with President's Climate Action Plan

Last June, President Obama announced a “Climate Action Plan” directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. The president also issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the EPA to propose carbon emission standards for new power plants by September 20, 2013; finalize the standards in a “timely fashion”; propose and finalize new carbon emission standards, regulations or guidelines for modified, reconstructed and existing plants by June 1, 2015; and require states to submit implementation plans no later than June 30, 2016. 

On September 20, 2013, the EPA announced new proposed power plant standards to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants and natural gas-fired plants, and for coal-fired units.

Presently, the proposed standards for new coal plants can be met only by the use of carbon capture and storage and sequestration (CCS) technologies that, some experts argue, have not been demonstrated adequately at commercial-scale power plants. Coal-state lawmakers are concerned that the EPA’s proposed rules require technology not yet commercially available.

In the wake of the Climate Action Plan and the EPA’s proposed regulations, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Congressman Ed Whitfield, introduced a bill on October 28, 2013, which, if enacted, would impede the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions and otherwise comply with the executive directives. Specifically, the new legislation would prohibit the EPA from issuing, implementing or enforcing any proposed or final rule that establishes a standard of performance for greenhouse gas emissions from a new fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating unit unless the EPA: 1) establishes separate standards for coal and natural gas electrical generating units; 2) sets a standard for coal plants that has been achieved previously for a continuous 12-month period by at least six electrical generating units at various U.S. locations; and 3) establishes a separate subcategory for new generating units using lignite coal (or coal with a similar heat content), a standard that has been achieved for at least 12 months by three electrical generating units in the U.S. 

The legislation further provides that any rule or guideline that addresses greenhouse gas emissions from existing, modified/reconstructed or new power plants shall not be effective unless a federal law is first enacted specifying the effective date, and the EPA has submitted a report to Congress containing the text of the rule, a description of its economic impacts and its projected effects on global greenhouse gas emissions. 

During a hearing in November 2013, Congress heard from power plant technology experts, plant operators and state regulators. National Mining Association president and CEO Hal Quinn summed up the industry position as: “[T]he EPA is entirely wrong in thinking that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is ready for use at power plants. [E]xperts have testified that CCS is a young, complex and unproven technology … [and] much more work must be done to take CCS from pilot projects and field tests to fully integrated demonstrations and operations at the scale required by power plants before it is ready and reliable.”

The EPA claims that CCS technology for coal plants has been “adequately demonstrated” for purposes of the Clean Air Act. It points to four government-subsidized CCS power plant demonstration projects as proof of the technology’s proven status. However, industry watchers point out that these plants are still in the planning or development phase; none has been completed, and two have not yet begun construction.

For an overview of carbon capture and sequestration technologies, CCS pilot projects and a map of other “CCS Projects” around the country, please click here.


Did You Know . . .

Members of the SLS trial group have tried in excess of 50 jury trials and 75 bench trials?

The SLS construction group has worked on sports stadiums across the country including Orioles Park in Baltimore and Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati?

The SLS construction group has worked on power plant projects across the country?

In 2007 SLS was selected for an Honorable Mention as one of the Best Places To Work in Washington DC?

Ron Shapiro, Steve Schram and Judd Lifschitz have all been selected as SuperLawyers by Law and Politics?

The SLS office building is an historic townhouse constructed in the late 1800s?

SLS has been selected by Martindale-Hubbell as a Preeminent Law Firm?

SLS trial lawyers have argued appeals in the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal for the 4th, 5th, 9th, D.C. and Federal Circuit?

SLS trial lawyers have been lead trial counsel in cases in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia, - to name just a few?

Virtually all the cases that SLS trial lawyers mediated have been favorably settled at mediation?

The transactional group at SLS was lead counsel on one of the largest, most complex mixed-use projects in downtown Washington, DC involving 4 lenders and 6 property owners?

In appreciation for the outstanding efforts of each of its employees during 2007, SLS gave everyone (attorneys, paralegals, and staff) a 4 day/3 night expense paid trip to Key West, Florida?

The transactional group at SLS has represented tenants in more than 200 retail leases in the Mid-Atlantic region?

Every attorney in the transactional group at SLS has at least 15 years experience?

The transactional group at SLS has represented developers in the purchase, construction, financing and/or sale of more than 75 multi-family apartment projects?

The transactional group at SLS has represented real estate investors and developers with respect to property in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan and the U.S. Virginia Islands?

Attorneys in the transactional group at SLS have represented eight national banks in commercial real estate loans?

Attorneys in the transactional group at SLS have represented the FDIC, the Resolution Trust Corporation and several banking institutions in loan workout transactions throughout the Mid-Atlantic region?

The transactional group at SLS has represented homebuilders and commercial real estate developers in work-outs of individual loans and also for work-outs of large portfolios involving dozens of properties in several states?

The trial lawyers of SLS have numerous reported decisions to their credit?