(Reuters) - New York environmental regulators on Thursday adopted carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) limits for new and expanded power plants that are slightly stricter than proposed federal limits and make it nearly impossible to build a new coal unit in the state.
There are no coal plants under active development in New York, which currently has about two dozen coal units -- some very old, small and rarely operated -- capable of generating about 2,800 megawatts (MW) of power.
"By preventing new high-carbon sources of energy, this performance standard will serve to further minimize the power sector's contribution to climate change, which poses a substantial threat to public health and the environment," Joseph Martens, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said in a release.
The new regulation will take effect July 12.
The New York regulations establish CO2 emission limits for proposed new major power plants that have a generating capacity of at least 25 MW, and for increases in capacity of at least 25 MW at existing facilities.
One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes.
The New York regulations set a CO2 limit of 925 lbs per megawatt-hour for most new or expanded base load fossil fuel-fired plants, and a limit of 1450 lbs/MWh for simple-cycle combustion turbines.
Energy analysts have said coal plants produce more than 1000 lbs/MWh of CO2, so the rules would prevent the construction of new coal plants unless they had carbon capture and storage systems installed.
Base load plants, which have historically been coal and nuclear powered, usually operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Simple-cycle natural gas turbines generally operate during the summer and winter peaks.
But with natural gas prices touching 10-year lows this spring, many utilities have opted to turn to combined-cycle gas-fired units to generate around-the-clock power instead of coal.
After the DEC proposed its CO2 regulation in January, the U.S. EPA in April proposed a federal CO2 New Source Performance Standard under the federal Clean Air Act.
EPA's proposal contains a primary CO2 emission standard of 1000 lbs/MWh.
New York's biggest coal plants are owned by NRG Energy Inc, which is looking to repower or mothball its plants, and units of AES Corp and Dynegy Inc, which are involved in bankruptcy proceedings.
(Reporting By Scott DiSavino; editing by Jim Marshall)