UPDATE: EPA's Greenhouse Gas 'Endangerment Finding' Gets No Respect From Republicans

cost curve image
Cost curve for control of PM-2.5 particulates at coal fired power plants: "Comprehensive Cost vs. Performance Graph of Alternative Control Technologies", Image credit:Montana, DEQ, Air Quality Permit issued in 2008. (pdf file)

Congressional Republicans are examining strategy options for opposing EPA's point-source regulatory approach for greenhouse gases. EPA bases its approach on the climate "endangerment finding," enabled when the Supreme Court gave the OK, in 2007, to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Presently, USEPA intends only to regulate each year emissions from a small subset of some 13 to 14 thousand factories, refineries, power plants and other such large facilities. The subset will be those facilities that significantly upgrade equipment, or new factories - in total, a few hundred sites per year. As insignificant as this sounds, opponents see it as a 'big stick' of government intervention. Camel's nose under the tent, and all that.Washington Post covered the opposition's battle strategy:

"The stick approach isn't going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate," said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). "They could stop the funding, and they could change the law."
Update: The Republican Governor of Texas has written USEPA Administrator Jackson, demanding the Agency not regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Fort Worth Star Telegram has the full story: Perry urges EPA to back off plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. 'Climate gate'... blah blah. Here's the money quote:
The policy could have a far-reaching impact on Texas, which produces more carbon dioxide than any other state and many countries.

Ironically, regardless of whether EPA waits for Congress to enact specific legislation, as opponents argue should be the case, or whether EPA acts now, under the endangerment finding, the practical result will be the same: EPA must work with industry to identify "best available control technology" or "BACT" for each sector. Many opponents of climate action, even if if they understand this, don't care. Their intent is simply to delay and defer any climate action. Industrial policy making has no interest for them. Their team has only a defense squad. For those interested in an offensive strategy, I offer:

The complete blog-post speed-reader's guide to BACT.
To define "best" available control technology for greenhouse gases, EPA will survey, for example, the efficiencies of industrial boilers, heaters, and incinerators already in use. They'll also likely survey GHG controls and fancy process components available commercially, but not in widespread use. For perspective.

The purpose is to identify capital and operating costs, amortized over the life of the "best" industrial processes and end-of-pipe controls. Cost data will then be charted (as above). The most cost effective and reliable technologies, assuming enough good ones are found, will make it to the top of the list for each sector. The top-listed ones are "BACT."

Annualized cost curves, as I explained above, will be based on actual examples in use, not on unproven designs by some guys brother in law. And, BACT is not limited to top-of-chimney solutions.

Draft tables will be published, expressed in dollars per ton of GHG controlled or eliminated by BACT. Industries will be given a chance to react and send in comments on the draft(s). EPA revises accordingly and then estimates future costs and benefits, based on deployment of the various BACTs across all regulated industry sectors. The economic impact study will be published in the Federal Register, and public comments received. Adjustments made as appropriate, and on we go.

By the time final revisions to the BACT documents are made, and the final numbers published, the effort may have taken 2 to 3 years. Keep in mind that the industry BACT implementation clock starts ticking only when they decide to upgrade a production unit or expand capactity, after BACT is finally defined. If they keep processes as they are, BACT only comes up at permit renewal times - typically 4 to 6 year intervals. Bottom line: this is a decades long process.
BACT could involve such simple improvements as better insulating pipes, installing more sophisticated process sensors and computerized control systems, burning cleaner fuels, replacing old boilers with new, more efficient ones, and so on. Don't buy the rap about your local auto factory having to do carbon capture and storage because of Obama's EPA. That's beltway pundit horsehocky. BACT by definition does not involve unproven technology. Key word: "available."

Ironies and realities.
BACT will ultimately impose costs on certain capital-starved US industrial operations. We'll learn which ones a few years from now.

In response, there likely will be demands for Federal loan assistance and for tax reductions to take away some of the pain. For industrial operations teetering at the end of design life - a coal fired plant built in 1947 for example - there may be an option for "offsetting", such as tree planting in lieu of process upgrades, for example. (Fine with me if it's not monoculture and managed with oversight.)

BACT historically does not mean the end of industries, but rather the transformation to higher productivity operations, driven by new industrial policy, which is what EPA will be making when they define BACT, in collaboration with industries. (This is something Japanese and some European industries are expert at.)

Yes, there may be a few iron age losers tipped into the abyss by GHG-BACT; but there will also be winners. The "trick," as the climate scientists like to say, is to make the winners economic growth engines for the nation.

Large stockholders, including mutual fund owners and investors, could become the fiercest of opponents, concerned that short term dividends will be diverted to making more efficient manufacturing processes. (Never mind that the diversion will make firms more sustainable and profitable, through energy cost savings.) Only through the promise of economic growth can this opposition be overcome.

Many of the regulated sites facing BACT deadlines will be foreign-owned. In effect, EPA's BACT permitting requirements would return to the USA, profits sent to those parent firms over preceding years. Need I list some examples? I thought not.

Just keep in mind that opposing lobbyists take money from foreign firms as well as the US-based companies and trade organizations.

Winners among the losers - who can pick'em?
US industries that manufacture the more efficient boilers and steam generators, for example, will be in a position to benefit from increased sales.

More posts on EPA's endangerment finding.
EPA Draft Rules Would Regulate Large Industrial Sources of CO2 ...
It's Official: EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Endanger Public Health ...
Crowds Turn Out For EPA Global Warming Hearings :


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