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Photo by PSNH ( - Merrimack Station power plant in Bow, with the $450 million scrubber that removes most sulphur and mercury from emissions.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Obama seeks carbon caps from power plants; for NH, the devil will be in the details

President Obama's climate-change plan, released Tuesday. "directs the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants" but has no other specifics, so we can't say what effect it will have on New Hampshire's coal-fired electricity generating stations (a topic I posted about yesterday).

PSNH spokesman Martin Murray sent me this note yesterday in response to a query: "CO2 emissions in New England are being targeted today through a regional program, RGGI, that most say is working (in terms of reducing CO2 emissions); The vast majority of New England CO2 emissions in 2012, 88 percent, were the result of gas-fueled power plants, not coal."

That last statement is true but a little disingenuous, since it's only true because natural gas prices are so low that gas is used to generate most of the electricity in New England. Per-kilowatt carbon emissions are roughly twice as high from coal plants as from gas plants.

Environmental groups like Sierra Club and Portsmouth's Clean Air Cool Planet will welcome Obama's push. It all depends on federal politics, however, so nothing much is going to happen any time soon.

UPDATE: Speaking of Merrimack Station, it just got an award for the scrubber: The Environment Business Council of New England "recognized PSNH for its first-in-the-nation installation of a specially designed wet flue gas desulfurization system for the removal of mercury as well as a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility (no liquid effluent) at Merrimack Station."

UPDATE UPDATE: More specifically, Obama established a timeline under which the Environmental Protection Agency won’t issue a proposed rule on existing power plants until June 2014, and won’t finalize it for another year after that ... so the devil's details are still obscure.