EPA rejects coal plant permit

Carbon-spewing coal plants take note: You can no longer slide by on your half-hearted promises to curb carbon emissions without a real plan of attack already in place. That’s the hard lesson that a Utah-based coal plant recently learned after an Environmental Protection Agency appeals panel rejected a plant permit issued by its Denver office, saying that the Denver office had failed to explain why it granted the plant a permit without requiring controls on carbon emissions.


Though it’s just one power plant, the ruling speaks volumes concerning the fate of the approximately 100 coal plants planning to be built sometime in the near future. “The Board recognizes that this is an issue of national scope that has implications far beyond this individual permitting proceeding,” reads a section of the EPA ruling concerning the Utah matter, a statement that some argue opens up the EPA to reconsider similar permits in other states.

Of the 25 coal plants under construction in the US, the 20 projects that have been permitted or are near construction, and the more than 60 that have been announced or are in the early stages of development, none of the “commercial-scale plants plan to include equipment to capture and sock away carbon emissions underground”, according to this Reuters News Service article.

That’s right. Despite big coal’s big push to get carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology into the limelight during the recent presidential race (Obama and McCain are both clean coal fans), it looks like coal won’t be clean anytime soon—the industry claims that “the equipment (for CCS) is unproven and too expensive to invest in without certainty over when and how greenhouse emissions would be regulated.” It sounds like the coal industry has been talking to environmentalists like Al Gore and Van Jones, who have long said that CCS is too costly and unlikely to happen anytime soon.

For now, the coal industry seems content to pay lip service to “clean coal” without actually doing anything to clean it up; that is, at least until carbon emissions are regulated on a national level, a policy that the US may (hopefully) be inching closer to with President-elect Obama promising to regulate greenhouse gases.

In the meantime, the Utah coal plant matter has been sent back to the EPA’s Denver office, which must now offer up a better explanation as to why it failed to demand limits on carbon dioxide.

With temperatures rising, wildfires increasing, and a record-setting number of species on the brink of extinction, let’s hope that this is only the first in a number of these kinds of decisions that could help stop global warming in its tracks.


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