WASHINGTON — Trying to write a complicated formula to cut carbon emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency thinks it has found a magic number: 5.8.
The agency is trying to complete a rule governing carbon emissions from power plants, and among the most complicated and contentious issues is how to treat existing nuclear power plants. Many of them are threatened with shutdowns because cheap natural gas has made their reactors uncompetitive.
The agency’s proposal gave an odd mathematical formula for evaluating nuclear plants’ contribution to carbon emissions. It said that 5.8 percent of existing nuclear capacity was at risk of being shut for financial reasons, and thus for states with nuclear reactors, keeping them running would earn a credit of 5.8 percent toward that state’s carbon reduction goal.
Since receiving tens of thousands of comments on the proposal, the agency is now reviewing the plan. It must evaluate all comments before it sets a final rule, which it hopes to do by June. That rule, however, is likely to be challenged in court...