New greenhouse gas rules riddled with loopholes
March 27, 2012
The new greenhouse gas rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency today are welcome, but disappointing, says Greenpeace USA.
“Today, the EPA issued an historic limit on carbon pollution from new power plants. Administrator Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy are climate heroes for moving forward despite a begrudging White House and a Congress mired by a radical right wing in love with coal and oil,” says Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Kyle Ash.
The decision comes as members of the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) - including Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Southern Company - fight tooth and nail against basic environmental protections and the basic idea that climate pollution endangers Americans. “The UARG does not care about communities who will lose their homes from rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, and freak storms – all caused by climate disruption.”
“Unfortunately, this standard is riddled with weaknesses, like exemptions for biomass and carbon capture and storage, and it does nothing to drive down current climate pollution,” Mr Ash says.
Three huge loopholes seriously undermine this pollution standard. First, the EPA has again exempted pollution from burning biomass. Biomass can have higher climate emissions than coal, while the resilience of American forests is doubly compromised by rising temperatures. Second, the EPA has offered a one year free-for-all so industry can scramble to get coal plants approved and avoid any limits. Third, the EPA allows new coal plants to pollute freely for ten years as long as they integrate carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) and lower emissions enough to bring their annual average pollution down to the limit after 30 years. The EPA, in effect, has defined an exemption based on unproven technology that even in theory would sequester carbon while exacerbating other catastrophic coal issues – such as mountaintop removal and generating millions of tons of toxic coal ash.
In 2007 the Supreme Court required the EPA develop climate pollution standards, a decision industry polluters continue to fight. Although this standard is anti-climactic since it only limits emissions from power plants not yet built, old coal continues to fight a market that has clearly realized coal power is dirty, old, and expensive.
While the new rule may help keep new giant sources of emissions from coming online, the Obama administration has yet to require limits on carbon pollution from existing stationary sources. “The President should stand by Administrator Jackson and her team as they push corporate polluters to reduce the CO2 spewing from smokestacks today,” Mr Ash says.
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