On Wednesday, EPA published its proposed New Source Performance Standards (“NSPS”) for greenhouse gas emissions in the Federal Register. In its proposed regulations, EPA expresses its determination, despite industry and internal Scientific Advisory Board evidence to the contrary, that Carbon Capture and Recycling (“CCR”) is a viable technology. This is a huge boon for CCR technology, as until now the efficacy of the R – recycling – had been the subject of intense debate. While Carbon Capture and Sequestration is a generally accepted practice, the viability of recycling residual gas and using it as feedstock for other products had, until now, been in dispute.

In adopting CCR, EPA’s proposed regulations fit within the technology-forcing paradigm, which traditionally exists where the agency sets a performance standard so high that most, but not all, of industry participants can attain it. This has the effect of both supporting new and advanced technologies in the energy industry, while also removing laggard companies from the picture – netting a double environmental gain.

In an interesting twist, however, analysts at Law and The Environment are quick to point out that EPA’s CCR requirements come at a time when the regulated industry – coal-fired power plants – is in serious decline. According to one commentator, “the difference is that EPA is forcing the technology, but doesn’t care if the forcing actually works. If the alternative is that no new coal plants are ever again built in the United States, I am sure that would be just fine with EPA.”

What does the future hold for CCR technology, especially if the coal-fired power plant industry is on its way out?