Yet Another Disappointing Delay in Climate Rules

, Policy Director and Lead Economist, Climate & Energy | September 16, 2011, 7:26 am EDT
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Emails started trickling into my inbox yesterday afternoon with the news that EPA has decided, yet again, to delay releasing a proposed rule on the regulation of global warming emissions from power plants.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks at the California Governor's Global Climate Summit in 2009.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks at the California Governor's Global Climate Summit in 2009. Photo:

I can’t say I was surprised. And yet, this news comes as a bitter blow. Once again it seems that narrow political interests and industry scare tactics have won out over the best interests of Americans.

As my colleague, Alden Meyer says, this is beginning to look like a dangerous trend.

The auguries were not good: The latest deadline (of September 30, 2011; the original deadline had been July 26, 2011) for the draft rule was fast approaching and, as best we could tell, it still hadn’t gone through the official Office of Management and Budget review process (a process that can take 60-90 days on average). President Obama’s recent announcement that the administration was delaying the ozone rule until at least 2013 didn’t leave much room for optimism on the greenhouse gas rule either.

But some of us had hoped — and still hope — that better sense would prevail on the climate rule. Unchecked climate change poses grave risks to public health, the economy and our environment. These rules are an important opportunity to begin lowering the emissions that cause climate change.

Contrary to the doomsday predictions of the fossil industry, power plants will have many cost-effective options to comply with Clean Air Act regulations without affecting reliability, affordability or general economic well-being. These include: investing in energy efficiency, increasing the share of renewable sources of energy, and greater reliance on natural gas. The coal plants most likely to shut down are old, dirty, and inefficient, and account for a small fraction of total generating capacity in the U.S. Furthermore, these changes would take place over a period of years (most likely the remainder of this decade), thus the industry would have ample time to plan for replacements in a manner that preserves reserve margins.

As Philip D. Moeller (Commissioner of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) said in his testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on September 14, “The electric industry can plan to meet whatever EPA regulations become final. This nation has complied with EPA regulations in the past, and we can do it in the future, given enough time and information.”

For now, I am going to take EPA Administrator Jackson at her word, as quoted in a Reuters article: “Greenhouse gases for power plants is first on the docket. Although we are not going to make the date at the end of the month, we are still working and will be shortly announcing a new schedule.”

I am eagerly awaiting clarity on the new schedule. And hoping that the delay will not be so serious as to threaten a timely release of the final rule, currently scheduled for May 26, 2012. If that deadline slips into the “silly season” surrounding the election or, even worse, into the term of the next administration, it would be major lost opportunity.

And it would be hard to see that as anything other than a complete reneging of this administration’s promise to take the science of climate change seriously and act accordingly.



Posted in: Global Warming Tags: ,

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  • Sasparilla

    Very well said Rachel. As to the Administration’s promise to take the science of climate change seriously – that went over side after the election, in June of 2009 (months into office, with the price of oil through the floor and a swell of support for action on climate change) President Obama approved the first tar sands pipeline (Keystone 1 to Midwest refineries) giving the Alberta tar sands its first major market and igniting the money involved with its development.

    As climate scientists have said, if we burn the tar sands, its game over for the climate.

    I fully expect the EPA regulation to be delayed till after the election or to be turned “industry friendly” under the same misguided political calculation used with the Ozone regulation.

    Currently almost ~10% of US imports come through the Keystone 1 pipeline to Illinois (and other states) refineries producing gasoline that’s being sold. Running on gasoline made from the tar sands gives a Prius the CO2 emissions of a Hummer.