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New regulations are coming for coal-fired electricity plants in Canada, to reduce allowable greenhouse gas emissions for new projects. ((Charlie Riedel/Associated Press))

Tougher emissions regulations for new coal-fired electricity plants in Canada are on the way.

Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Friday that new rules will be published next week and will be open to a 60-day consultation period.

"Our strategy to lower our emissions is based on making improvements sector-by-sector to sustain our economy and protect our environment," Kent said in a statement Friday.

The new coal standards will be based on achieving the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as a high-efficiency natural gas plant. Natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — as coal.

The new regulations would only apply to projects completed after July 1, 2015, not to existing plants, many of which are nearing the end of their useful lives.

It is unclear whether the new regulations will apply to a project in Alberta that has raised concerns from environmentalists. A major expansion of Maxim Power's Milner station near Grande Cache, Alta., was approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission on Aug. 10.

Environmental groups, including Ecojustice and the Pembina Institute, have questioned whether the plant's expansion was timed so as to avoid the new federal regulations.

The proposed regulations will be published by the government in the Canada Gazette on Aug. 27. The final regulations are due sometime in 2012, and are scheduled to go into force on July 1, 2015.

This is part of the government's pledge to reduce Canada's GHG emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. Ottawa has already released proposed new regulations  for trucks and passenger vehicles.