No more ‘No New Coal’?

By Josh Ran

Thanks to the good work of the Sierra Club and a large coalition of western and Utah organizations, the phrase ‘No New Coal’ may have gone WAY out of style today. The Environmental Appeals Board of the EPA just ruled that the EPA has the authority to establish a Best Available Control Technology (BACT) limit for carbon dioxide.

Up until now the EPA has gone out of it’s way to avoid, duck, shirk and otherwise weasel it’s way out of treating C02 as a pollutant and regulating it as such, but this ruling decrees that every argument it has used so far to avoid doing so is legally insufficient. The decision is binding for all EPA-issued air quality permits, so best case scenario – this could affect every single air quality permit for a new coal plant in the country.

Which means……that we may see the stalling of all coal-fired power plant permits under consideration for a year or so while the EPA figures out what ‘Best Available Control Technology’ means in this context. I repeat: no more new coal-plants. Then, the sound of scurrying feet as the coal industry scrambles to fast-track the ever-mythical Carbon Capture and Sequestration technology and finally the gradual movement of all the energy that has been built up around stopping NEW coal plants towards dealing with the 500 existing plants.

This has been a week of emails and blogs about how we can’t rest on our laurels just because Obama got elected. The same holds true for this EAB ruling — it may really stop new coal-fired power plants, and for that we can all be enormously relieved.

We won’t be moving in the wrong direction any more. Now the challenge is to start moving in the right one – towards no coal whatsoever.

UPDATE: The ruling will also cover oil refineries and other major sources of CO2 pollution. Score one for the climate!!