EPA GIVES COAL PERMISSION TO SPEW
According to the head of the Bush EPA, it would be just fine if new coal plants get built without any carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions controls.
This is not a surprising decision from a man who has done everything he could in the last year-and-a-half to prevent EPA from playing a Supreme Court-granted part in the fight against global climate change,
Washington Post: “The ruling, in a memorandum signed by EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, turns on a seemingly arcane regulatory question that could govern the future of new fossil fuel-burning buildings and power plants under the Clean Air Act.”
Johnson’s basic decision was that the EPA’s responsibility is to monitor carbon dioxide, not control it.
Johnson said his decision was based on “…sound policy considerations…” but did not specify whether the considerations pertained to global climate change or his own personal well-being.
Increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 emitted by human activity are, of course, the primary cause of global climate change, according to the vast preponderance of scientific evidence.
The Sierra Club, which forced the Johnson decision by bringing an appeal on a coal plant permit to EPA, argued that EPA's present monitoring of emissions constitutes a form of action against them and the Supreme Court decision furthers the EPA’s responsibility.
The Sierra Club heroically led a grassroots movement in recent years that turned back the “coal renaissance” emerging in the early years of this decade. The anti-coal movement stopped all but 20 of a proposed 150 new power plants in the Bush years.
Johnson’s argument (and the argument of the administration that appointed Johnson) has been and continues to be that EPA’s responsibilities under the Clean Air Act are not the appropriate tool with which to fight global climate change.
Johnson’s memorandum: “Given the confusion…the best path forward is to establish a clear interpretation…The current concerns over global climate change should not drive E.P.A. into adopting an unworkable policy of requiring emission controls…”
John Walke, attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council: “It’s a marvel to behold an E.P.A. action that so utterly disdains global warming responsibility and disdains the law at the same time.”
Many see Johnson's decision as reprehensible. Some in the anti-coal movement fear serious repercussions.
Bruce Nilles, anticoal campaign director, Sierra Club: “There are a bunch [of coal plants in the late stages of the approval process] that they are going to argue now don’t have to consider carbon dioxide, and which will be beyond the reach of the incoming Obama administration…”
Nilles and others believe actual harmful effects might still be prevented. Permits may be issued but the Obama appointee replacing Johnson is expected to reverse the ruling. Some believe that in fact the controversy reveals a way environmentalists can obtain compromises from polluting industries.
Washington Post: “…Democratic officials close to the president-elect's team say that the Supreme Court ruling and the EPA's power to regulate carbon dioxide can serve as powerful levers to bring corporations and other parties to a bargaining table about broad framework for controlling greenhouse gases.”
Jeff Holmstead, former E.P.A. official and member, Electrical Liability Coordinating Council: “I think if you’re [Obama EPA Administrator appointee] Lisa Jackson…you have to be pretty grateful…She has the opportunity to go through a rule-making and see how to deal…”
There is no way to stop new coal, get to 350 ppm and reverse global climate change with EPA rulings like this. (click through for more info on 350 ppm)
EPA Eases Emissions Regulations for New Power Plants
David A Fahrenthold and Steven Mufson, December 19, 2008 (Washington Post)
E.P.A. Ruling Could Speed Up Approval of Coal Plants
Matthew L. Wald and Felicity Barringer, December 18, 2008 (NY Times)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator); The Sierra Club
According to EPA Administrator Johnson’s interpretation, new power plants should not be required by EPA to install technology to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions because EPA should not regulate but only monitor emissions.
Without the anti-coal movement led by The Sierra Club and others, this coal renaissance would be a reality instead of a memory. (click to enlarge)
- Johnson rendered the judgment in a memorandum December 18.
- During the Bush administration, the EPA has rejected the idea that greenhouse gases should be regulated as air pollution, despite theSupreme Court ruling that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
- The case began when EPA issued a permit for a new Utah coal plant in 2007.
- EPA monitors ~275 new sources of pollution, from power plants to apartment buildings, yearly.
- The EPA-issued permit was for a new coal plant on Ute tribal land in eastern Utah near the town of Bonanza.
- Representatives of industries that generate CO2 have pushed for this ruling from the Bush EPA while environmentalists wanted the fight they thought they could win because of the Supreme Court ruling.
- 50 coal plants could be affected though none may obtain a judgment under this ruling before the incoming administration’s new leadership takes over at EPA.
- The Sierra Club, started the process that resulted in Johnson’s memorandum with its legal challenge to the Bonanza coal plant.
- The challenge was decided by EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. It decided the EPA’s responsibility was not clear.
- Johnson’s ruling clarified.
- The Sierra Club’s argument was that environmental rules dictate plants must use the “best available technology” to control all regulated pollutants and the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling had found carbon dioxide to be a pollutant requiring regulation.
It will not be possible to stop global climate change without stopping coal. From 350org via YouTube.
Robert Meyers, head, EPA office of air and radiation: "That is our established interpretation…We've been applying it that way for 30 years."