In a 2-1 ruling this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled against cross-state air pollution control of carbon emissions, saying the agency exceeded its authority by issuing standards that are too strict.
Mining groups and power companies were among the winners in the decision against the standards, which if enacted would have capped emissions in over two dozen states. Setting a cap was one of President Obama’s campaign promises of 2008 in an effort to reduce harmful coal-burning emissions.
“It is not our job to set environmental policy,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the 60-page opinion, according to Business Week. “Our limited but important role is to independently ensure that the agency stays within the boundaries Congress has set. EPA did not do so here.”
A 2005 measure called the Clean Air Interstate Rule was suggested as a replacement until the cross-state regulation can be reassessed.
The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the decision, and will decide “the appropriate course of action,” Alisha Johnson, an agency spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail to Business Week.
Among the power companies challenging the rule were Southern Co. (SO), EME Homer City Generation LP, a unit of Edison International (EIX), and Energy Future Holdings Corp. units in Texas. The state of Texas, the National Mining Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers joined in parallel cases, saying the rule would put an unnecessary financial burden on power producers and threaten electricity reliability. The “financial burden” would be having to comply with federal regulations, which for example the mining industry has balked at and caused them to come under investigation when mining accidents occur.
Power companies that depend on coal see the future’s “writing on the wall.” Natural gas is cheaper and plentiful, and coal-dependent power generators face increasing federal regulations.
“The court’s decision might be a short-term stay of execution for some facilities,” said Sam Brothwell, a senior analyst covering utilities for Bloomberg Industries in New York. “These older, dirtier facilities will ultimately retire.”
Romney’s energy policy supports corporations
Taking advantage of the ruling in favor of corporate energy producers, Mitt Romney plans to present his energy policies Thursday. Who are Romney’s advisers? Scientists and energy experts in the fields of energy production? No, he confers with oil industry executives.
Romney's energy policies are heavily tilted toward increased production of carbon-based resources, oil, gas and coal that environmentalists blame for global warming. He is outlining the policy two days after going over some of the details with executives from the oil industry who contributed to his campaign at fund-raising events in Texas.
Romney’s inner circle of advisors on energy has included former senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who, according to a report in the Boston Globe, also works for a lobbying firm that counts coal giant Peabody Energy as a top client.
Also in 2011, Talent emerged as a key player in Romney’s policy circle and was featured in Romney’s jobs plan writing about the importance of the coal industry. As the Globe reports, Talent simultaneously maintains a lucrative career at a firm that represents the coal giant Peabody.
As ThinkProgress Green’s Brad Johnson has noted, Romney has sought energy advice from other polluter lobbyists. One of them, Jeffrey Holmstead, has worked as a registered lobbyist for Duke Energy, Southern Company (which was one of the energy companies challenging the EPA cross-state ruling) and other fossil fuel giants.
Romney’s current energy policy includes polluter-friendly ideas like “amending the Clean Air Act to exclude regulation of carbon and opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil production.”
Romney’s policies either curtail or compromise federal regulations for the future health and safety of Americans in exchange for an emotional appeal, and the carrot he uses is job creation. Granted, job creation will be the heart of the debates between Romney and Obama. But what are the costs to the environment and to job safety when federal regulations are either rendered useless or ignored? We saw what that does in the mining industry after the fact, when accidents are the result of ineffective government oversight or lack of regulations.
If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.