Matter Hatters Of Coal vs The Children: Which Side Will Business Leaders Take?

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The Mad Tea Party: from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice meets the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse.

Tomorrow EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to announce final, revised Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) which will limit US power plant emissions of mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollution. If a utility requests, EPA may grant additional time -- years more if economics justify.

For background, see last week's post Control Of Mercury Emissions From Coal-Fired Plants May Increase Midwest Electric Bills Seven Percent but here's the bottom line on cost versus benefits, direct from EPA.

EPA estimates the value of the improvements to health alone total $59 billion to $140 billion in 2016. This means that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, we get $5 to $13 in health benefits."

As an amusement, I look forward to seeing Mad Tea Party spin the revised rule. More important, will be how industry positions, whether individual utilities announce their support or lack of it for EPA's rule.

Utility owners and their large industrial customers, coal mining companies, rail road owners, and Congressional members from the most coal-intensive states will be forced to decide what matters most to them: enabling cheap coal-fired power that continues to dose American children with mercury -- the Mad Hatter's, I'll call them -- versus protecting health and saving money for everyone.

Added wrinkle.
It's worth mentioning that a group of Evangelical Christians has framed EPA's Proposed Mercury Emissions Control Rule As 'Pro-Life'

Power industry value chain likely to split into three camps.
As cited in the Washington Post's excellent coverage, Clean Air Watch's Frank O'Donnell characterizes the mercury rule as the "signature environmental accomplishment of the Obama administration," which I believe is spot on.

The rule will lengthen the line already drawn in the coal dust. Utilities and their suppliers will have to decide in which camp they stand: 1) proactive and seeking first-in advantage; 2) reactives who will comply when told; or, 3) foot-draggers.

WaPo cites a few positive examples.

The debate over the rules has also split the nation’s utility sector. Some companies, such as New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group and Illinois-based Exelon, say they could meet the new standards easily and have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars to do so. PSEG has also switched from coal to natural gas...Among utilities in the Washington area, some are prepared for the stricter standards. Baltimore-based Constellation Energy has already spent three years upgrading its plants, said James L. Connaughton, an executive vice president.

Foot draggers?

...others, most notably Southern Co. and American Electric Power, which has aging coal plants scattered throughout the Midwest, protested that they would have to shut down facilities if forced to install new pollution controls by 2014. That, in turn, they predicted, could jeopardize the reliability of the nation’s electricity supply.
Want to know how you can weigh in on t his issue? Send a letter to your power company and stating your opinion and don't be like Eeyore.
  • Join a traditional environmental group with a Washington DC office and get active with other local members. League of Women Voters, EDF, Sierra, etc.
  • Let go of the RSS feed and start reading newsletters offered by traditional environmental groups.
  • Contact staffs of your elected state and Federal officials to be put on their mailing lists and participate in constituent meetings. Writing letters is not your goal. Polite face time is.
  • Participate in get out the vote (GOTV) canvasing and calling campaigns, and then...
  • Vote.

Tags: Carbon Emissions | Coal

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