The New York Times reported today that EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson has responded to the decision by the Environmental Appeals Board last month that EPA could but did not have to consider CO2 emissions when deciding whether to approve applications for new coal-fired power plants.
Mr. Johnson rejected a new line of attack by environmental groups. In the wake of the Bush administration`s failure to decide if carbon dioxide could be regulated under existing laws, environmental groups pursued a new strategy in fighting proposed coal plants like the one in Utah.
They asserted that because carbon dioxide must already be monitored under federal laws, that monitoring is tantamount to regulation. Therefore, they argued, its impact must be considered before new plants are approved. Last month the appeals board said the argument could be used, but was not required. On Thursday the administrator overruled the board. He said that simple monitoring cannot be considered regulation.
Why the refusal to take into account CO2 emissions when considering applications for new coal-fired power plants? Why for the convenience of the incoming administration of course! Wouldn’t want to tie their hands now would we?
Jeff Holmstead, a former E.P.A. official who now works with the Electrical Liability Coordinating Council, said the Johnson memo ensured that the incoming Obama administration had increased freedom to make its decisions on the status of carbon dioxide.
‘I think if you`re Lisa Jackson,’ whom Obama has chosen as Mr. Johnson`s successor, ‘you have to be pretty grateful,’ he said. ‘She has the opportunity to go through a rule-making and see how to deal’ with the issue.
What the Times doesn’t tell you is that former E.P.A. official Holmstead was instrumental in gutting the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act, thereby allowing highly polluting coal-fired power plants to continue to operate without installing pollution controls. Holmstead’s assistant John Pemberton was hired by Southern Company, the most powerful utility in the US as a lobbyist in 2003 immediately after the Bush administration weakened the New Source Review rules. [See Jeff Goodell’s Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future pp. 168-69]
The real reason of course is that it is part of the Bush administration’s strategy of doing as many favors for its corporate cronies as it can before it has to leave office in January.
Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund, estimated that as much as 8,000 megawatts of new coal-fired power plants could win swifter approval as a result of the ruling.
Just one of many parting gifts from the worst President in American history: 50 years of climate killing emissions from an extra 8 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity.