EPA Unveils Plan to Curb Emissions From New Coal Plants

Of the projects, a plant known as the Kemper County Energy Facility is the only one under construction in the U.S. Located in Mississippi, the 580-megawatt plant will gasify coal and then capture 65% of the carbon dioxide. Kemper’s parent company, Atlanta-based Southern Co., says the facility should be up and running by May, supplying electricity to much of Mississippi’s south.

The broader power industry and the coal producers that supply it say the Kemper plant shouldn’t be used as a model for what all future coal-fired units must do. The Kemper plant is uniquely situated next to a coal mine owned by its parent company, which eliminates transportation costs, and will be able to sell captured emissions to two oil companies using carbon dioxide for enhanced production at their wells. Those contracts should generate about $50 million a year.

Kemper has also been approved for $270 million in grants from the Energy Department and $412 million in tax credits. Even then, the plant has encountered cost overruns. While originally projected to cost $2.9 billion to build, the entire project now has a price tag of $4.7 billion.

“This project, while admirable, is not a basis for what future coal plants can do,” said Paul Bailey, a senior vice president at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a group that represents power companies and coal producers.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy, speaking to reporters Friday in Washington, acknowledged that Kemper is “not a good model” for future plants because of its unique characteristics. But she said there were other plants under construction that offered examples of how carbon capture is feasible today.

Two other plants cited by the EPA are the Texas Clean Energy Project and the Hydrogen Energy California Project. Both plants plan to gasify coal and will employ carbon-capture technology. Neither facility is under construction. The EPA also referred to a Canadian power plant that captures carbon at a small scale.