For the last five or so years, coal-fired power generation (CFPG) plants have been under assault, primarily from federal regulatory efforts aimed at drastically reducing environmental impacts from those plants. These regulatory restrictions range from limiting emissions of sulfur oxide (SOX), nitrous oxides (NOX), mercury and greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) to regulation of cooling water intake. States are also piling on with regulation of the storage and disposal of combustion residues (also known as coal ash), which are generally disposed of on-site.
The major federal regulatory initiatives in just the last five years include the Clean Air Transport Rule, Cooling Water Intake regulations, Mercury MACT Rule and mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions. Most recently, EPA issued draft regulations requiring states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent from 2005 baselines. While these proposed regulations provide states with flexibility on how to achieve those reductions, it is clear that one significant manner in which the reductions can be achieved is by clamping down on the major emitters of carbon dioxide: coal-fired power generation units.