Obama’s top climate priority — higher even than passing a domestic cap-and-trade bill — is to stop new coal plants, as I discuss in my Salon piece, “Real science comes to Washington
So it is a very reassuring sign that, as Bloomberg reports:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed a hold on approval of a coal-fired power plant in South Dakota, a move environmental groups say indicates increased scrutiny under President Barack Obama.
“This is a signal that the Obama administration is taking a much harder look at coal power from the previous administration,” said Darrell Gerber, a program coordinator at Washington-based Clean Water Action, which along with the Sierra Club opposed the plant.
The EPA said in a letter to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources yesterday that the state didn’t meet requirements under the Clean Air Act in part of its proposed permit for the plant. The state has 90 days to respond to the agency’s objections.
Obama has pledged to fight global warming by cutting the amount of greenhouse gases released in the U.S. and pursuing clean-energy technology. Coal-fired power plants account for almost 30 percent of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.
Here is more from the MN Progressive Project, which has been working hard to stop this plant:
Just as a little backgrounder, Big Stone II is a proposed coal plant in South Dakota that would provide power to Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. All these states have huge wind power potential but Big Stone II would commit us to dirty energy for generations. Here’s a longer factsheet. It’s a terrible idea but seemed to be heading towards approval, until today.
You can read for yourself the EPA ruling (PDFs: Part 1, Part 2). Environmental groups Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club are exited about a big victory. This does not end the fight but it is a significant blow to Big Stone II.
- In November the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment issued Big Stone II an air quality permit, then it sent that to the EPA for review.
- The EPA found 3 areas of the permit that were not consistent with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
- South Dakota now gets 90 days to change the permit and then the EPA has 45 days after that to review the permit again.
- The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved transition lines for Big Stone II last week.
- Minnesota law requires that new power lines for a coal plant can only be approved when the applicant (usually a utility) proves that that costs less than using renewable energy or energy efficiency or some combination of the two.
- If the permit is changed and accepted by the EPA it would likely raise the cost of the project. It would almost certainly change the cost. So according to MPR awesome local green group Fresh Energy plans to ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider last weeks decision.
Her group will ask the PUC to reconsider its power line permit for Big Stone II. Taylor says the increased costs of the plant because of the air permit issue will be one of the issues the group raises. It’s possible the plant’s energy will cost more than renewables like wind power, she says.
In short, this is a big set back for Big Stone II and a big victory for environmental advocates but the fight is far from over. It does signal however that the EPA under President Obama (still feels amazing writing that) will be taking a much harder look at proposed coal plants then they did during the Bush era. That coupled with Obama’s “green dream team” and recent stimulus developments are very good for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.
Kudos to everyone involved in making this happen.
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