Belmont Club

Get out that tire inflation guage

The AP reports that permits for as many as 100 proposed coal-fired power plants have been effectively put on hold until the Obama administration decides how it wants to proceed. An EPA appeals panel ruled that it unjustifiable not have imposed carbon dioxide limits on the proposed Bonanza power plant. It described carbon dioxide as “the leading pollutant linked to global warming.” Celesias.com has the backstory.

Back in May, the Sierra Club went before the Appeals Board of the Environmental Protection Agency (EAB) arguing that the air permit for Deseret Power’s proposed 110 MW Bonanza coal-fired power plant should be overturned because it failed to require any controls on carbon dioxide pollution. As a result of their appeal, yesterday the EAB rendered a decision that will force any new or proposed coal-fired power plants to address the question of how they plan to limit their carbon emissions through “best available control technology” (BACT). You can read the decision here (pdf) and the official Sierra Club statement here

How did Sierra Club argue the case? As Climate Progress explains, they relied on the Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts vs, EPA . In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the right to regulate CO2 and that greenhouse gases meet the definition of a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. As such, they must have an established BACT in order to limit their secretion into the environment …

This jibes well with President-elect Obama’s campaign statements that he would expect the EPA to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. And according to the AP , this decision will stop the permitting of as many as 100 coal-fired power plants. Nobody knows for how long, but for long enough to determine what constitutes BACT and certainly long enough to have an Obama EPA in place to help determine those criteria.

Well anyhow, here’s a discussion on whether tire inflation is better than drilling when it comes to getting more energy. It doesn’t address the question of coal fired plants as such. My guess is that they are not strictly substitutable since power plants provide energy over the grid. But the tire inflation argument is really a specific instance of what one might call the conservation versus production debate. In this case the argument against building a coal plant is that it is environmentally damaging. Well what do we do?

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