NAM Regulatory Update: New Power Plant Rules Unfeasible Without Permitting Reform

As part of an effort to bring more information about the regulatory and legal environment facing American manufacturers, NFPA is monitoring the newsfeed of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and will be bringing important updates like this to the attention of NFPA members.


Final rules released Thursday (4/25/24) by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traditional fuel-fired power plants are not achievable without permitting reform—and they pose a threat to U.S. national and economic security, the NAM said.

What’s going on: The new rules, part of President Biden’s pledge to create a carbon-free energy sector by 2035, mandate that:

  • Existing coal-fired plants and new natural gas–fired facilities cut or capture 90% of their emissions by 2032;
  • Coal-fired plants drastically reduce wastewater runoff and severely tighten the emissions standard for heavy metals; and
  • Coal ash—including past deposits “placed in areas that were unregulated at the federal level until now”—be managed in storage ponds.

A first: “The power plant rule marks the first time the federal government has restricted carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants” (Associated Press).

The new regulations—which face almost certain court challenges—set emissions caps that plant operators would be required to meet.

Targeting major energy sources: Natural gas generates approximately 43% of all U.S. electricity, while coal generates about 16% (AP).

Why else it’s problematic: While manufacturers appreciate that the EPA heeded the input of their industry and did not include existing gas plants in the new requirements, as written the final rules are unattainable because the administration and Congress have not undertaken much-needed, comprehensive permitting reform, according to NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

“Congress and the president have not enacted permitting reform—making it impossible to achieve the EPA’s highly aspirational mandates,” Timmons said. What’s more, the final rules threaten “grid reliability because of the unrealistic timeline for power plants to adopt technologies within the next 10 years that have yet to even be proven at scale.”

Pushing through yet another set of regulations in the absence of systemic reforms burdens an already overtaxed national electrical grid, jeopardizing U.S. security in a way that “literally could leave Americans in the dark and factories offline.”

What should be done: The EPA should partner with—not undermine—manufacturers “to achieve a more balanced regulatory framework to help reach our climate goals.”

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