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Thursday, February 19, 2009

EPA to Regulate CO2, or How Coal Plants Die

By Susanna Murley, originally posted at CCAN

In the death throes of the Bush administration, then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson put the agency on record stating that CO2 is not a pollutant that should be regulated by the Clean Air Act. This week, the current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced her intent to overturn that memorandum, putting the EPA on the path toward regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

As a result of this decision, coal plants are dropping like flies. The latest victim comes out of Oklahoma. Opposition groups cite the EPA decision and public outcry, but the reps from the company building the plant say it’s “purely a business decision.” With more and more planned coal plants biting the dust due to “business decisions,” how much longer can coal companies insist that building new coal plants our best option?

But this hilarious video from 2006 reminds us that the fossil fuel industry isn’t confined to the truth when defending its turf. (No, it’s not a spoof. It’s real.)

Virginia is in the midst of a heated battle against two proposed coal plants. Given that the EPA now seems to be interested in actually protecting the environment, and coal plant proposals across the country are being withdrawn, it’s hard not to wonder: Is Virginia next?

One thing is for certain: regulations are coming. With this most recent EPA decision, the skyrocketing price of coal, and mounting concerns over global warming and mountaintop removal, there is ample reason for the courts to send the Wise County Plant back to the state regulatory agencies for review. Surely the recently proposed $6 billion Surry plant will have to be reconsidered given the new regulations.

With these new regulations from the EPA, utilities like Dominion (which proposed the Wise County plant) and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (which proposed the Surry plant) will not only have to clean up emissions of sulfur, mercury and nitrogen, but will also have to limit emissions of carbon dioxide. There is, of course, no way to significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from coal plants – the much anticipated capture-and storage technology everyone keeps talking about is decades and billions of dollars away from being a reality. It makes you wonder: How will ODEC and Dominion make their coal plants “clean” when you can’t “clean” the CO2 out of dirty coal? With a lot of money, a giant PR campaign and a little magic dust sprinkled on for good measure.

As the truth about coal begins to dawn on Virginia, it’s up to us to say enough with dirty expensive coal. In the face of such economic uncertainty it seems like an unsound investment for Virginia to be gambling our future. Now is the time to work towards securing a clean and efficient energy for the Commonwealth and the nation.

[Following in the spirit of the hilarious real-life ad from CEI... do you know the game two truths and a lie? Well here's three coal ads. Two are real life. One is fake. Can you tell which one? Post your guess in the comments.]

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