Obama’s EPA Takes First Big Steps To Kill Coal

by Myron Ebell on March 30, 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, 27th March, released proposed New Source Performance Standards (or NSPS) to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas fired power plants. The rule will effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they include carbon capture and storage technology that is not commercially available and has poor prospects of ever becoming economically feasible.  This is one of several rules EPA is writing in order to implement their 2009 finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

The proposed new rule does not apply to existing power plants fueled by coal or natural gas or to plants that are under construction or have been permitted.  However, the Clean Air Act’s section 111d requires that existing sources be regulated as well as new sources.

When asked during a press teleconference on Tuesday when rules for existing power plants might be issued, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson replied, “We have no plans to address existing plants….”  What she should have been asked by reporters was how her agency would respond when environmental pressure groups file suit in federal court to compel the agency to issue NSPS rules for existing power plants.  A good follow-up question would be to ask whether anyone in her agency is talking to environmental pressure groups about filing a friendly suit that EPA could then settle in a friendly way.

Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) immediately announced that he would do everything he could to block or overturn the rule. The most likely route is to introduce a resolution of disapproval using the Congressional Review Act.  However, that cannot be done until the rule becomes final, which is not likely to happen until next year.

Marlo Lewis, my CEI colleague, explains several of the oddest aspects of the proposed NSPS for greenhouse gas emissions here. Matt Patterson, CEI’s Warren Brookes Fellow, comments in an op-ed published in the Washington Times titled, “Obama kills coal—as promised.” My own views are contained in a CEI press release titled, “Obama turns from raising gas prices to raising electric rates,” that can be read here.

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