EPA Is Required To Regulate Carbon Pollution From Existing Power Plants

EPA is legally obligated to issue rules regulating CO2 from existing power plants.

Dave Roberts at Grist is (eternally) puzzled that folks don’t seem to know that. Since eternity is a very long time — only slightly longer than the lifetime of some CO2 molecules in the air — I’ll repost his key points:

  1. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Mass v. EPA that CO2 qualifies as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
  2. In 2009, EPA issued an endangerment finding that deemed CO2 a threat to public health. Once those two things happened, a cascading series of of legal obligations was set into motion.
  3. First, EPA must regulate “mobile sources” of CO2 under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act. That’s what it did with its new auto mileage standards.
  4. Then, EPA must regulate “stationary sources” of CO2 underSection 111 of the Clean Air Act. First it will issue standards on new power plants. It issued a draft regulation last year, but it missed a deadline in April for issuing the final rule (for which some green groups are suing it). Supposedly it has delayed release of the final regulation so it can do more work to protect the rule against legal challenge.
  5. Then, EPA must regulate existing stationary sources — in the case of CO2, primarily power plants — under Section 111(d). That rule, the 111(d) rule, is the one EPA keeps telling journalists it has “no current plans” to develop, and no surprise, since it’s got its hands full working on the rule for new power plants.

That is from Roberts’ post, “Once more, with feeling: EPA is required to regulate carbon from existing power plants.”

Roberts opines:

Again, this series of executive actions is prescribed by statute. EPA is not “bypassing” Congress, or going around it, or in any way exceeding its authority. It is not even acting on Obama’s discretion, not really. It is simply carrying out the will of Congress, as embodied in the Clean Air Act….

The Savvy Washington Insiders of the political press don’t understand or care about policy, they only care about court intrigue, so they are suckers for the daft conservative narrative that EPA regulation of carbon is some quasi-dictatorial power grab that Obama is contemplating. Now, as usual, they’re busy being amateur Sun Tzus and gaming out whether and how he will screw enviros over.

Who knows, maybe enviros — and the planet — will get screwed in the end. It’s usually a safe bet in D.C. But whatever happens, rules on carbon from power plants are coming. On that, Obama has no choice.

So again, EPA is required to regulate carbon from existing power plants. Or, rather, EPA is required to regulate carbon from existing power plants!!!

5 Responses to EPA Is Required To Regulate Carbon Pollution From Existing Power Plants

  1. So why aren’t they regulating CO2, already? Is is just bureaucratic and legalistic snafus? Or has some kind of internal “word” come down from the White House?

    On a related matter: Now that Obama is has put off the Keystone decision until November or maybe January, wonder if he’ll kick it all the way down the road to the next administration.

  2. Joan Savage says:

    Semi-generic answer here.
    Environmental law is relatively new law, as compared to well-established law like navigation or real property. New environmental law is tested in the courts, and a body of interpretations, decisions and precedents develops before the enforcement can occur without legal controversy.

    It was once said that the EPA liked to be sued, because that step would move us (the country) towards implementation. Every time the EPA publishes a policy it has to brace itself for the legal challenges that are almost certain to follow.

    I formerly worked for a non-profit entirely funded by EPA grants, but I have not and do not work for the EPA, so this is hearsay, you might say.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In the so-called ‘Common Law’ jurisdictions, the law is the class-based legal apparatus constructed over centuries by the privileged classes, to protect their wealth and power and ‘keep the rabble in line’. The judges, almost invariably drawn from the ‘better’ classes and those on the social make and able to afford the education, can look at the same laws and ‘precedents’ (written by earlier generations of servants of power)and come to completely different opinions. Judges are increasingly appointed for their known ideological biases, certainly in the USA and Australia. In NSW some decades ago, a reactionary Rightwing state regime created a ‘Land and Environment Court’, but made sure to stack it with reliably Rightwing, anti-environmental, ‘judges’, and the court, then and since, thanks to institutional inertia and a succession of Rightwing regimes making new appointments, has reliably come down against the environment and for the ‘developers’ in the overwhelming majority of its cases.

  4. Andy Hultgren says:

    Yes, EPA is certainly legally required to regulate CO2 from existing power plants.

    What form that regulation will take and how tough it will be are other questions entirely.

  5. Colorado Bob says:

    We’ve been burning every carbon atom that ever came our way.

    Now we pay the bill.