Okay, the U.S. may have been the first to the moon, but we have not been the first to regulate greenhouse gases. However, we’re getting there. California has been advancing its cap-and-trade regime among other terrific programs, we’ve got the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast and there are all sorts of other programs moving forward, including the federal government’s GHG regulatory regime. In the endless foofaraw surrounding federal programs, very much exacerbated by the political climate of the day, it might be tough to miss the fact that the EPA has been steadily, carefully, but inexorably moving toward a comprehensive program. As this press release yesterday indicates, EPA has been mandated by a Supreme Court ruling and the Clean Air Act to determine if greenhouse gases are an “endangerment” to the public health and the environment, and, if so, to regulate those GHGs as air pollutants. That’s what’s been underway for a couple of years. Yesterday’s announcement of the first rules to curb greenhouse gases from new power plants is another critical step along this path.
The unsinkable Lisa Jackson said: “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We’re putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can’t leave to our kids and grandkids.” The Washington Post article on this watershed moment reports on the requirement for “…any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.”
Excelsior as we say in New York.