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EPA backs off SO2 designations; Texas regulator rips EPA over methane rules

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EPA backs off SO2 designations; Texas regulator rips EPA over methane rules

New data released by the U.S. Energy InformationAdministration tracks the pollution controls that the nation's coal-fired powerplants have installed in response to the U.S. EPA's Mercury and Air ToxicsStandards. According to data released July 7, coal-fired plants with 87.4 GW oftotal capacity added pollution controls between December 2014 and April 2016.

The Sierra Club believes the U.S. EPA's decision to backaway from proposed non-attainment designations for the sulfur dioxide standardwill subject some communities to unhealthy air for years to come. The EPA onJuly 1 announced thatparts of Illinois, Maryland and Michigan were out of attainment with the 2010National Ambient Air Quality Standards for SO2.

The EPA's rules on methane emissions are part of a greater"war against fossil fuels" and will have a devastating effect onTexas' industry, the state's top oil and gas regulator said during testimonybefore Congress. Texas Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter ripped theObama administration and the EPA in particular for overstepping theirboundaries in what he described as a quest to ruin hydrocarbon producers.

A congressional hearing on U.S. EPA regulations went sourJuly 6 after a subcommittee member called the agency's regulatory actions"un-American" and another questioned an EPA official's credentials.Janet McCabe, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for the office of airand radiation, was testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee'sSubcommittee on Energy and Power about the agency's regulatory legacy since theObama administration took office.

Republican lawmakers kept up their fight to block majorfederal regulations for the energy sector by submitting amendments to the U.S.House of Representatives' spending bill for the U.S. Department of Interior andEPA. At the same time, Democrats submitted dueling amendments aimed atprotecting many of those rules, including greenhouse gas emissions standardsfor the electric power sector.

Participating states in the Regional Greenhouse GasInitiative released auction documents July 11 for the program's third quarterlyauction of the year, kicking off the bidding process for the Sept. 7 sale. Partof an effort by nine mid-Atlantic and New England states to cap and reduce CO2emissions from the region's power plants, the 33rd RGGI auction will offer atotal of 14,911,315 allocation year 2016 CO2 allowances for sale. The RGGIstates will use a reserve price of $2.10/ton.

The Clean Air Act lacked the tools to offer a life raft tothe struggling nuclear industry within the Clean Power Plan, a U.S. EPAofficial said July 11. Speaking at the U.S. Energy Information Administrationconference in Washington, D.C., the EPA's Joseph Goffman, associate assistantadministrator and senior counsel, said the agency originally pitched morenuclear-specific policy in the proposed version of the Clean Power Plan that was releasedin June 2014.

Two environmental groups have joined forces in a citizenlawsuit against the U.S. EPA in an effort to force the agency to review NationalAmbient Air Quality Standards for nitrogen and sulfur pollution. In April, theCenter for Biological Diversity submitted a letter of intent threatening to bring thenew lawsuit, but the group had to wait 60 days before officially filing.

South Korea intends to shut 10 aging coal-fired power plantsby 2025 as part of its pledge during the Paris climate summit to reducegreenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2030, Reuters reported July 5. The closureof the coal plants could also help ease fine dust levels by 24% in 2030 from2015 levels, said the report, citing the energy ministry.