An outspoken Democratic senator is challenging the EPA's controversial power plant regulations by alleging they are based on a failing Canadian project, saying it makes “no sense” to force U.S. coal-fired plants to meet new standards using unproven technology.
“We’ve based our plans on what we should be doing in America to provide the energy people depend upon on a failed operation in Canada, and it’ll be another year or two years before they prove whether it can be done or not,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer. Manchin serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate.
The Obama administration's Clean Power Plan seeks new standards to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. The limits are based on what the EPA calls “a new efficient coal unit implementing partial carbon capture and storage.”
But Manchin, who has been a vocal critic of the EPA’s plan, says the final rule for coal-fired power plants is based largely off a still-developing power plant unit in Canada – the Boundary Dam CCS project.
In the final rule, the EPA said the Boundary Dam “has been operating full CCS successfully at commercial scale since October 2014.” However, Manchin says that, based on news reports, the project has been operating unsuccessfully, undermining the EPA’s regulation.
“Forcing new coal-fired plants to meet standards when experts know that required technology is not sustainably operational on a commercial scale makes absolutely no sense,” Manchin said in a statement.
Carbon capture and storage is a technology that supporters claim can capture up to 90 percent of carbon released during the burning of fossil fuels by filtering carbon off from other gases. The carbon is then transferred by ships or pipelines and stored below the earth.
The president and CEO of SaskPower, the company behind the project, has admitted there have been many technical problems during the project's first year, and the facility is running at just 40 percent of its capacity, Canada’s CBC News reports.
Manchin wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Tuesday, noting the EPA used the Boundary Dam project as “Exhibit A” in citing post-combustion carbon capture projects.
“Many of the glowing performance results cited by the EPA in the final rule have been found to be nothing more than marketing spin and hyperbole, with the true results reflecting a very troubled project, particularly in the CCS technology area,” Manchin wrote.
An EPA official said the agency disagrees with Manchin’s analysis.
“The Clean Power Plan standards rely on a wide range of data, information and experience well beyond that generated by particular projects,” the official said in a statement.
The agency says it specifically rejected full CCS (greater than 90 percent capture) -- which is the method used at Boundary Dam -- and instead found “partial CCS” to be the best system for new coal power plants.
“There are coal-fired power plants that have demonstrated partial carbon capture and some are capturing carbon pollution today, showing that the technology works in this application,” the official said.
Manchin, though, asked McCarthy to what extent the EPA spent time at the Boundary Dam site to determine with due diligence that the project was operating successfully, and how the EPA missed the “persistent unsuccessful performance and shutdowns” when the project was critical to the EPA’s final determination.
Manchin said the technology still has not been adequately demonstrated and therefore the standard is unreasonable.
More than two-dozen states, mostly led by Republicans, are suing the Obama administration over the Clean Power Plan.
The criticisms come as Hillary Clinton's campaign Thursday unveiled a $30 billion plan to help coal communities rebound as the "clean energy economy" develops -- drawing a rebuke from Republicans who accuse her of backing policies that are "crippling" coal country in the first place.
FoxNews.com's Adam Shaw contributed to this report.