EPA Set to Act on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Coal-Fired Plants – Another Strike for Bush-era Policies

  • Published on February 17th, 2009

EPA grants a petition to reconsider former EPA chief's ruling that global warming pollution shouldn't be a factor in granting permits to build new coal-fired power plantsThe Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday morning it would reconsider a December 18th ruling from former EPA chief Stephen Johnson which sought to prohibit controls on global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act, despite a finding from EPA’s own Environmental Appeals Board stating that “EPA had not adequately explained why the program did not apply to carbon dioxide.”

Under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, Obama’s new EPA Administrator, the agency granted a petition from the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund calling for the EPA to reconsider the “unlawful, midnight memo issued by former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.”

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as pollution under the Clean Air Act. The Bush administration did all it could to ignore and defy that ruling.

Coal-fired plants account for more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Considering recent news that these emissions are rising faster than expected, principally due to increasing use of coal as an energy source, delay in effectively regulating them in the U.S. will likely not happen on Obama and Jackson’s watch. That is the legacy to which George Bush and Stephen Johnson hold title.

In response to the EPA decison David Bookbinder, Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club issued the following statement this morning:

“Today’s victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular.  This decision stops the Bush Administration’s final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming.

“Not only does today’s decision signal a good start for our clean energy future, it also signals a return to policy based on sound science and the rule of law, not deep pocketbooks or politics. Lisa Jackson is making good on her promises to bring science and the rule of law back into the center of the decision making process at EPA.

“With coal-fired power plants emitting more than 30 percent of our global warming pollution, regulating their carbon dioxide is essential to making real progress in the fight against global warming.

“Holding coal-fired power plants accountable for their global warming emissions was one of the top actions the Sierra Club has been encouraging President Obama to take on global warming as soon as possible as part of the “Clean Slate” agenda. Building on the monumental economic recovery package to be signed today and his administration’s quick decision to reconsider the California clean cars waiver, this is one more part of President Obama’s vision for building a clean energy economy that will create millions of new green jobs while curbing global warming.

“Today’s announcement should cast significant further doubt on the approximately 100 coal-fired power plants that the industry is trying to rush through the permitting process without any limits on carbon dioxide.  New coal plants were already a bad bet for investors and ratepayers and today’s decisions make them an even bigger gamble.”

Three strikes – thank God they’re out

This is the third time the Obama administration has reversed or called for reconsideration of Bush-era environmental policies.

Earlier this month the Department of Interior withdrew leases for oil and gas development alongside National Parks in Utah, and last week the Interior Department halted Bush’s “headlong rush” to drill offshore, calling for a longer period of public comment and better information regarding the resources available on the outer continental shelf before proceeding.

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

About the Author

is an online publisher, editor, and freelance writer. He is the founder of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the History Blog Project, as well as publisher and site director for the HippieMagazine.com. Tom also contributes to numerous environmental blogs, including TriplePundit, Ecopolitology, Sustainablog, and Planetsave.   Tom's work has led him to Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific, and across the United States. His home base is San Francisco, California.