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USA SUPREME COURT FINDS AGAINST 27 COAL BURNING STATES’ POLLUTION

30 April 2014

WASHINGTON In a major victory for the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the USA Supreme Court on 29 April 2014 upheld the authority of the EPA to regulate the smog from coal-fired utilities that drifts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The Supreme Court 6 to 2 (one abstaining) ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: A series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants (utilities and similar).

SUPREME JUSTICE GINBURG WROTE THE DECISION “In reining-in interstate pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind…Some pollutants stay within upwind states’ borders, the wind carries others to downwind states, and some subset of that group drifts to states without air quality problem” She quoted the Christian Book of John: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” The Supreme Court decision is only the latest blow to the coal Industry, and to coal users. Also on 29 April 2014, a Federal District Court ordered the EPA to propose by 1 Dec 2014 a new nationwide regulation to rein in smog pollution from coal-fired power plants and other major polluters. This rule would come on top of the regulation covering cross-state air pollution. Two weeks ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld another major EPA Clean Air Act rule that would reduce coal-plant pollution from mercury.

ACADEMIA AND LEGAL EAGLES SATISFIED Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard U said “It’s a big win for the E.P.A., and not just because it has to do with this rule, It’s the fact that it’s setting the stage and creating momentum for what’s to come If the Supreme Court had decided against the Obama administration in Tuesday’s decision, Ms. Freeman said it would have been a shot across the bow to the EPA as it takes the next steps  Legal experts said the decision signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges. In June 2014 the EPA is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

EPA Administrator Gina Mc Carthy said:“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding victory for public health and a key component of E.P.A.’s efforts to make sure all Americans have clean air to breathe…the court’s finding also underscores the importance of basing the agency’s efforts on strong legal foundations and sound science.”

EPA ARGUMENTS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Stated the rules were necessary to protect the health and the environment of downwind states. East Coast states in particular are vulnerable to pollution blown by the prevailing west-to-east winds of the United States. The soot and smog produced by coal plants are linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death.

DISSENTING JUSTICES, ANTONIN SCALIA AND CLARENCE THOMAS AGREED when Justice Scalia said:”the regulation is unwieldy and suggested it was Marxist…As written, the regulation will require upwind polluting states to cut pollution in relation to the amounts of pollution each state produces, but also as a proportion of how affordably a state can make the cuts. In other words, states that are able to more cost-effectively reduce pollution will be required to cut more of it…I fully acknowledge that the proportional-reduction approach will demand some complicated computations where one upwind state is linked to multiple downwind states and vice versa…I am confident, however, that E.P.A.’s skilled number-crunchers can adhere to the statute’s quantitative (rather than efficiency) mandate by crafting quantitative solutions. Indeed, those calculations can be performed at the desk, whereas the ‘from each according to its ability ( paraphrasing Communist Karl Marx) approach requires the unwieldy field examination of many pollution-producing sources with many sorts of equipment” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. recused (abstained) himself from the case.

REPUBLICANS AND THE COAL INDUSTRY have often blasted the proposed regulations, which use the “Clean Air Act” as their legal authority, as a “war on coal”. The coal industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules. The interstate air pollution regulation, also known as the “good neighbor rule” has pitted Rust Belt and Appalachian states like Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky against East Coast states like New York and Connecticut. The utilities and 15 states opposed to the regulations argue that the rules, as written by the Obama administration, gave the EPA excessive authority, and placed an unfair economic burden on the polluting states; the decision will force coal-fired utility owners to install costly “scrubber” technology to curb smokestack pollution of smog-forming chemicals.

NATURALLY, COAL-FIRED UTILITY OWNERS ARE OPPOSED. Stating the regulation would be so expensive to implement, that many expected to shut down their oldest and dirtiest coal plants. Rep Fred Upton(R-Mi), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep Edward Whitfield, (R-Kt) said in a joint statement. “This is just the latest blow to jobs and affordable energy…The administration’s overreaching regulation will drive up energy costs and threaten jobs and electric reliability. We cannot allow E.P.A.’s aggressive regulatory expansion to go unchecked. We will continue our oversight of the agency and our efforts to protect American families and workers from E.P.A.’s onslaught of costly rules.” Both Reps. Upton and Whitfield represent states that rely heavily on cheap coal-fired utilities.

EARLIER EFFORTS TO IMPLEMENT THE CLEAN AIR ACT FAILED: In 2011, the Obama administration issued the “good neighbor rule”, which was to apply to 27 states east of Nebraska (half of the country); but the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck it down, ruling that the EPA had not followed the Clean Air Act when it calculated how to assign responsibility for “cross-state air pollution”. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned that decision.

EAST COAST STATES HAVE TOUGHER AIR POLLUTION STANDARDS Governors from East Coast states have for more than 15 years been subject to tougher air pollution requirements than other parts of the country, and have long criticized the Appalachian and Rust Belt states for their more lenient rules on pollution from coal plants, factories and tailpipes so that their state economies to profit from cheap energy while their smog and soot have been carried eastward by prevailing winds.

Thanks to The New York Times for their 29 April 2014 story, here redacted in the interest of brevity.

OUR TAKE AND COMMENTS

FINALLY! THE EPA HAS THE LAW BEHIND ITS “CLEAN AIR ACT” ENFORCEMENT – None too soon the coal fired industry can see that Americans, and our laws, are fully supportive of any , and all efforts needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our our coal burners. Even so it will take time for the USS COALBURNER to change its act, and change its course. Shareholders even mention the necessity to clean up their dirtiest utilities, or shut them down! It is about time. They know there are many technologies they could use to reduce emissions, and yet they have not done anything simply for greater profits. The best of all would be to transition to Nat Gas use where it is available. Fortunately, in America Nat Gas is available to many now, as a result of Fracking. Coal burning is not the only way to generate high temperature steam. Yes, changes cost money to implement, but they will also save potentially millions of lives from the pain and suffering inflicted by smog, and mercurial pollution now rampant. One would think these Shareholders live elsewhere, but we are all on Planet Earth. Yes, their children too!

Another very interesting development in American politics last week was the announcement by Pres. Obama that he would withhold his decision regarding the Keystone (CANAM heavy Oleoduct) to Texas, until after the upcoming congressional elections in the fall. Pres. Obama knows full well that most Republicans, and a few sellout Democrats would prefer not to be accountable to their electorate before the election about such vital issues as energy, its development, and its use. Such vital issues need to get injected into our electoral process. We must demand that our political candidates make their position known on such vital issues as energy, and water during their campaign. The world’s largest democracy, India, is teaching us all a lesson about the politics of the future >energymaters.com/?p=1484. They must include all vital concerns such as clean air, clean water, and sufficient energy. Yes we can do these things, but we must start now!-Every country in their own way, but always looking for our vital needs first.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)

P.S. A huge amount of e-marketing spam has motivated us to shut down our “Comments”. However if you feel strongly about any issue regarding any recent article, please send us an e-mail, and we will publish it as a comment.

e-mail:  gonzedo@yahoo.com

 


April 30, 2014 at 12:55 AM
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