EPA wins another key court battle

April 29, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

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There’s a big U.S. Supreme Court ruling out today that is a big win for the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s the short of it from The New York Times:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate coal-plant pollution that wafts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to eastern states.

The 6-to-2 ruling is a major environmental victory for the Obama administration, which has instituted several new E.P.A. regulations under the Clean Air Act in an effort to crack down on coal pollution. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the effort as a “war on coal.”

The regulations covering cross-state air pollution, also known as “good neighbor” rules, have pitted Rust Belt and Appalachian states like Ohio and Kentucky, which produce heavy pollution, against East Coast states including New York and Connecticut.

The Times’ Coral Davenport notes:

Legal experts say the Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, may signal that the Obama administration’s other efforts to use the Clean Air Act to push through major environmental curbs on coal pollution will prove successful.

In June, the E.P.A. is expected to unveil a sweeping new climate change proposal, using the authority of the Clean Air Act to rein in carbon pollution from coal plants.

You can read the full ruling yourself here. And let’s not forget that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was among those who filed an amicus brief against EPA’s rule — and even bragged that this was this was “the first time in at least two decades that a Mountain State attorney general has led the writing of a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court involving the EPA.”

10 Responses to “EPA wins another key court battle”

  1. steve says:

    Does this big win mean closing more coal fired power plants? There was a good article in the L.A. Times a couple days ago talking about this very thing. In it it said,
    “Everywhere you turn, there are proposals and regulations to make prices go higher,” said Daniel Kish, senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research. “The trend line is up, up, up. We are going into uncharted territory.”

    New emissions rules on mercury, acid gases and other toxics by the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to result in significant losses of the nation’s coal-generated power, historically the largest and cheapest source of electricity. Already, two dozen coal generating units across the country are scheduled for decommissioning. When the regulations go into effect next year, 60 gigawatts of capacity — equivalent to the output of 60 nuclear reactors — will be taken out of the system, according to Energy Department estimates.

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-power-prices-20140426,0,6329274.story#ixzz30MNa1Nra

    What will take the place of all this capacity?

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Steve,

    The advocacy group quoted there, the Institute for Energy Research, is an industry-backed group that denies climate change, wants utilities deregulated, and generally pushes for more fossil fuels http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Institute_for_Energy_Research

    There are many options for replacing capacity, as this report from Stanford researchers explains, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/february/fifty-states-renewables-022414.html

    Stanford University scientist Mark Jacobson has developed a 50-state roadmap for transforming the United States from dependence on fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. He unveiled the plan at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

    “Drastic problems require drastic and immediate solutions,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Our new roadmap is designed to provide each state a first step toward a renewable future.”

    Ken.

  3. Dan Taylor says:

    Not just a victory for the EPA, this was a victory for public health in America and for the health of citizens of West Virginia.

  4. Steve says:

    Have we so soon forgotten last winter when the power company requested that we ration our major appliance use during peek hours? With even more power plants doomed next year and 2050 over three decades away, should we shift so soon to hydro, wind and solar before they are ready to take coals place?

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Steve,

    Your first post asked:

    “Does this big win mean closing more coal fired power plants?”

    Here’s one answer:

    Analysts with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. say they expect to see “very limited impact” on the nation’s coal-burning power plants from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR.

    In a research note April 30, the analysts suggest that power plant owners have already been retiring older and less efficient units or upgrading other units to meet requirements of the more stringent U.S. EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and CSAPR’s predecessor, the Clean Air Interstate Rule.

    According to the analysts, most states are in a position to meet sulfur dioxide emissions limits set by CSAPR. Only coal-dependent Texas is likely to have SO2 emissions in excess of its CSAPR budget, they said. Similarly, they found that only Missouri’s plants would violate nitrous oxide emissions limits. Those plants would be “materially” above the state’s budget, they said.

    http://www.snl.com/InteractiveX/Article.aspx?cdid=A-27956762-10283

    Ken.

  6. steve says:

    So, I guess what your saying Ken is this; Since the Power companies are already retiring all these power plants because of the regulations to deal with stringent U.S. EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, its a mute point, this supreme court ruling?
    I assume it would be just a feel good “big win” then, right?

  7. Mike says:

    The advocacy group quoted there, the Institute for Energy Research, is an industry-backed group that denies climate change, wants utilities deregulated, and generally pushes for more fossil fuels

    The statement that 60 GW of capacity are going to be lost next year alone is not from the IER, its from the EIA. So why the IER is and what they do and don’t think seems a bit like a red herring.

    http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=15031

    There are many options for replacing capacity, as this report from Stanford researchers explains

    First, there is no way we are going to replace 60 GW in one year. For perspective, that’s the entire generating capacity of the country of Mexico. Energy analysts recognize this and have warned that this will lead to more brownouts, blackouts and many interconnects will lose nearly all of their reserve capacity.

    http://www.nerc.com/pa/RAPA/ra/Reliability%20Assessments%20DL/2013_LTRA_FINAL.pdf
    Secondly, the “roadmap” from Mark Jacobson is pie in the sky, even proponents of renewable recognize that:

    The feasibility analysis performed by Jacobson et al. (2013) is incomplete and scientifically questionable from both the technical and economic perspectives, and it implicitly assumes, without sufficient justification, that social criterion would not produce even larger feasibility barriers. The feasibility analysis performed by Jacobson et al. (2013) is incomplete and scientifically questionable from both the technical and economic perspectives, and it implicitly assumes, without sufficient justification, that social criterion would not produce even larger feasibility barriers.

    http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/pjaramil/ClIMA/Publications_files/Energy%20Policy%202013%20Gilbraith.pdf

  8. Mike says:

    Let em guess, my comment will remain in moderation indefinitely because it completely upends your argument? Not really surprising.

  9. soyedina-tol says:

    The EPA is the only entity willing to protect WV from itself. Hopefully the people will wisen up before its too late and elect leaders that will support clean water and clean air before it is too late.

  10. Walt says:

    Soyedina-tol, I hope you remember your comment next time we have another winter like we did last year. Our power grid was maxed out and on the verge of a major blackout, now we are scheduled to close additional coal fired power plants, with no new additional generating cap. scheduled to come on line. What do you think will happen?

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