Photo via Eco Scraps
Following the EPA's stance on coal-fired power plants during the final months of the Bush Administration was enough to make you dizzy: first, it stated in November that emissions from plants should indeed be regulated. Their emissions would have to be taken into account in the approval process for new coal plants, and some considered it coal's darkest hour. But it was not to be. A month later, they ruled that coal plant emissions were no business of the EPA's after all—a ruling that could have sped up approval for even more plants.
Now, Obama's EPA has announced that it's going to reconsider that ruling—which could mean his Administration is ready to take a tougher stance on coal.
A First Step For Against Coal Plants?
Groups like the Sierra Club see the announcement as a first step towards the Obama Administration imposing regulations on coal plants—and curbing the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Which would be good news indeed: coal-fired plants generate 30% of our nation's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Club.
Stephen Johnson, the previous head of the EPA, issued a "memorandum in December saying heat-trapping carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant that the agency can regulate when approving power plants," according to Bloomberg. It was this last-minute ruling, called "illegal" by the Sierra Club, that appeared to pave the way for a slew of new coal plants.
The memo seemed to be in direct contradiction with the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled the EPA does indeed have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Fresh Blood, New Rules?
And now that the new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced the reconsideration, hopes are high that a stricter set of rules will be imposed for the approval of new coal plants that takes into account carbon emissions. However, Jackson has not yet taken any definitive action—and the memo has not yet been nullified. But the fact that one of the first acts of the new EPA is to look into emission standards of coal plants is a positive sign: it bodes well for the possibility of an EPA that's actively concerned with combating global warming.