The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a final rule on Thursday, May 13th, for regulating major emitters of greenhouse gases, like coal-fired power plants, under the Clean Air Act. Starting in July 2011, new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and any existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons will have to seek permits, the agency said.
In the first two years, the E.P.A. expects the rule to affect about 15,550 sources, including • coal-fired plants • refineries • cement manufacturers • solid waste landfills and • other large polluters.
Impacted sites account for 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“We think this is smart rule-making, and we think it’s good government,” commented EPA’s assistant administrator.
The announcement effectively shifts power over greenhouse gas control from a dithering Congress (obstructed by republicans) to the regulatory E.P.A.
A couple of things are happening here:
- One, it’s now going to be very tough for new coal-fired power plants to get built in the United States — an exceptionally good and significant step forward as those plants are a major source of carbon pollution.
- Second, the EPA (i.e., the Obama Administration) pressing ahead with its own regulations might give the Senate the kick in the head or ass needed to pass a climate bill.
The proposed American Power Act is that climate bill. Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the two sponsors of the climate bill, seized on Thursday’s announcement to argue for the urgency of passing it. “Today we went from ‘wake-up call’ to ‘last call,’ ” he warned in a statement.
To its credit, the EPA is also being cautious and moving very deliberately.
“It’s clear evidence that the E.P.A. is saying, ‘We are no rogue agency,’ ” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “They are saying, ‘We’re only going to be looking at the very biggest polluters.’ ”
Next year the E.P.A. is to begin another rule-making process to phase in more permits and determine whether some smaller sources of emissions can permanently be excluded from the process.