December 19, 2008

A Moratorium on the Moratorium
Remember that watershed ruling by the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board that seemed to require the EPA to study carbon emissions from coal plants before allowing new ones to be built? Well, the Bushies may be enemies of freedom, the environment and capitalism and all that, but they are careful readers. According to a report in the NYT, the ruling did not in fact require the EPA to consider carbon emissions in the permitting proces. It just said they "can" - a detail that was noticed by the EPA's lawyers, if not the rest of us. And that, as Robert Frost might say, has made all the difference.

Outgoing EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, so effectively filleted in a recent series of Philadelphia Inquirer articles, has stuck one more of his substantial collection of shivs into the back of the environmental movement by declaring Thursday, "The current concerns over global climate change should not drive E.P.A. into adopting an unworkable policy of requiring emission controls." And so it won't. With that statement, so went the moratorium on new plants. You can still hear the coal industry cheering.

In the end, the Obama administration can indeed require carbon emissions controls under the Appeals board ruling for new plants. But it looks like several thousand megawatts of new coal-fired power will come online before they get to it. Oh well. It's just the climate, right?

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