Earlier this week, the EPA announced that it would implement rules restricting the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a new power plant could emit. They effectively prevent new coal-fired power plants without expansive scrubbing or sequestration technology from ever being built.
But the rules don't effect already existing power plants, which are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. These ancient carbon-belchers are often decades old and exceedingly dirty. So many greens were disappointed to find that they weren't covered in the regulation proposed by the EPA. And they were further concerned when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the agency had "no plans" to enact emissions regulation on existing plants.
But, as Grist's David Robert points out, we have every reason to believe that the rule is indeed on the way—it's just that the Obama administration doesn't want to spark a political shitstorm in election season by pursuing it right now. He writes:
EPA doesn’t really want to talk about it ... Here’s the thing: The rule itself is probably going to be pretty mild. It will mainly involve efficiency upgrades and demand-side measures. However, until there’s an actual rule on the table, the void will be filled by the lurid fantasies of conservatives, who warn that EPA is determined to shut down the entire U.S. coal fleet. Suffice to say, Obama doesn’t want the airwaves filled with Midwestern Senate Dems worrying over the closure of coal plants in their states.Read Roberts' full rundown for a detailed portrait of why the EPA is legally bound to pursuing regulations on existing plants.
That, I think, is why Jackson is saying EPA has “no plans” for existing sources. It’s not that they’re not going to regulate existing sources. They have to, by law. Right in today’s proposal [PDF] it makes reference to rules “EPA would promulgate at the appropriate time, for existing sources under 111(d).” When Jackson says “no plans,” what she basically means is, “no schedule.”
Of course, what greens should really be worried about in this arena is the prospect of Obama losing the election, and Romney pulling the rug out from under the EPA altogether—which he would likely do to appease the outspoken elements of his base who appear convinced it is a socialist monstrosity. Then it would be even more of a struggle to get anything resembling that rule enacted at all ...