U.S. EPA to tackle utility emissions with new rules

STORY: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to use new limits on well-known pollutants such as coal ash to encourage the retirement of remaining coal-fired power plants.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the new approach comes after the Supreme Court curtailed the agency's ability to impose sweeping climate regulations.

He said, "Will [the Supreme Court decision] constrain what we could do and the flexibilities that we could allow the power sector to have? Absolutely. But are we deterred? Absolutely not. EPA is still in the game."

The approach reflects how the administration of President Joe Biden intends to forge ahead with goals to decarbonize the power sector despite the recent ruling from the court.

The power industry is the source of a quarter of the nation's greenhouse gases and Biden campaigned on a pledge to cut its net emissions to zero by 2035.

Regan spoke to Reuters during a tour of polluted sites in Puerto Rico.

He said the EPA is also working on several other rules targeting power plants, including requirements for the disposal of toxic coal ash and enforcing regulations on emitting ozone.

Regan said, "we want to present the industry with a suite of regulations so that they can make the best long-term investments possible."

The EPA's plans come after Senate Democrats this week struck a deal to spend nearly $370 billion on climate and energy security after more than a year of negotiation.

The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and Biden has been pushing international partners to accelerate their transition to clean energy to fight climate change.

U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector have already dropped sharply in recent years as utilities retire old coal fired power plants in favor of natural gas, solar and wind power.