DOE official defends administration carbon capture rules

A senior Energy Department official went to bat for carbon capture technologies that the Obama administration is pushing for new coal-fired power plants.

The acting head of the Department of Energy's (DOE) fossil-fuel energy office, Christopher Smith, told lawmakers the technology is ready in comments submitted to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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Smith's comments, which were made available by the committee on Tuesday, responded to questions from senators during his nomination hearing early last month.

Obama nominated Smith in September to officially take over as the Energy Department's assistant secretary on fossil-fuel energy.

The majority of the questions on carbon capture sequestration came from Republican senators who have voiced their dismay with the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

GOP members in both chambers have called the rules -- that would require new coal-fired power plants install carbon capture systems to combat emissions -- a "war on coal" and "unrealistic."

But Smith said in his comments that the technology has been ready for some time.

"(Carbon capture and storage) technology has been and continues to be deployed in a range of projects," Smith said.

"There are twelve large-scale CCS projects in operation worldwide today. By 2020 another eight projects, including the first commercial scale electric power plants with CCS, are anticipated to come online.

"If confirmed, I will continue to work with industry in advancing CCS technologies to continue reducing the cost of capture, making CCS more efficient, and preparing for wider-scale deployment in future years," he added.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz have long touted the readiness of carbon capture technology.

McCarthy said on Monday at a Center for American Progress event that June -- while a deadline for other EPA proposals -- it is "not a deadline" for finalizing the rules on new power plants.