Breaking: Obama EPA to act on global warming emissions from new coal plants

Based on a letter received from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Sierra Club explains the biggest climate action news of the day:

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today took the first step toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA, under the new leadership of Administrator Lisa Jackson, granted a petition from the Sierra Club and other groups calling for reconsideration of an unlawful, midnight memo issued by former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson which sought to prohibit controls on global warming pollution from coal plants. EPA announced in a letter to the Sierra Club that it will publish a proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and seek public comments on the decision in the near future.

Today’s decision is consistent with a previous ruling by the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) in the Bonanza case, which found that there was no valid reason for the Bush administration’s refusal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The so-called Johnson Memo sought to unlawfully overturn that decision.

For background on the Bonanza case and why it is so important to the critical effort to stop new, dirty coal plants see Breaking News: No new coal plants without “Best Available Control Technology” for CO2 and Coal stocks hit as reality of climate and EPA ruling finally sets in.

Here is the response to Jackson’s letter from David Bookbinder, Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club:

Today’s victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular. This decision stops the Bush Administration’s final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming.

Not only does today’s decision signal a good start for our clean energy future, it also signals a return to policy based on sound science and the rule of law, not deep pocketbooks or politics. Lisa Jackson is making good on her promises to bring science and the rule of law back into the center of the decision making process at EPA.

With coal-fired power plants emitting more than 30 percent of our global warming pollution, regulating their carbon dioxide is essential to making real progress in the fight against global warming.

Holding coal-fired power plants accountable for their global warming emissions was one of the top actions the Sierra Club has been encouraging President Obama to take on global warming as soon as possible as part of the “Clean Slate” agenda. Building on the monumental economic recovery package to be signed today and his administration’s quick decision to reconsider the California clean cars waiver, this is one more part of President Obama’s vision for building a clean energy economy that will create millions of new green jobs while curbing global warming.

Today’s announcement should cast significant further doubt on the approximately 100 coal-fired power plants that the industry is trying to rush through the permitting process without any limits on carbon dioxide. New coal plants were already a bad bet for investors and ratepayers and today’s decisions make them an even bigger gamble.

Kudos to Jackson — and to Sierra, NRDC, and EDF for filing the original lawsuit against the Bush administration aimed at overturning the Johnson Memo.

The time to stop new dirty coal plants is now.

Related Posts:

5 Responses to Breaking: Obama EPA to act on global warming emissions from new coal plants

  1. Nancy says:


    Will you be joining Bill McKibben & Wendell Berry to protest the Capital coal-fired power plant on March 2?

  2. Dano says:

    Are the dark days of BushCo really over? I’ll wait until I see some enforcement, but this is a good start.



  3. Agree with Dano… hopeful — but I read the actual action as:

    “granted a petition … calling for reconsideration of a … memo ”

    Seems like the least possible action. A small step, praiseworthy, now keep going.

  4. “Best available control technology” for controlling post-combustion CO2 emissions is — according to DOE — chemical capture (by amine scrubbing) and sequestration (underground dumping). Neither has any hope of success.

    Because of the large volume of N2 ballast (75% is N2) in flue gas, which is hot and dirty, mixing chemicals into it in the hope of contacting the sparse CO2 molecules can’t work. Plus there is the problem of the NOx and SOx in flue gas becoming acids which cause heat-stable salts on heat exchange surfaces. Corrosion is another unsolved problem.

    As for sequestration, the GAO has stated the clear and convincing case why it should be rejected. Who wants a pressurized poison gas dump underneath where they live?

    So what has DOE been doing for the past 8 years to develop realistic BACT for coal plants? Seems like they have deliberately wasted time and money on things they knew would be impractical, so coal plants wouldn’t have to spend any money on control technology. How about the new team?

  5. Rudolf says:

    Since all animals, including humans, exhale carbon dixoide with each breath, is the EPA now empowered to regulate our breathing? And since carbon dioxide is required for all plant growth, including all foodstuffs, how can it be classed as a pollutant?