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Nine States, Washington, DC, and New York City Sue EPA Over Refusal to Act on Global Warming

27 April 2006

Nine state Attorneys General today sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to adopt strong emission standards to reduce air pollution from new power plants across the nation. The District of Columbia and the City of New York also joined in the legal action.

The Clean Air Act requires that the EPA review and revise emission standards for new pollution sources every eight years to ensure that they protect public health and the environment. On February 27, 2006, EPA issued revised regulations in accordance with a court order. However, the revised standards fail to regulate power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the major contributor to global warming.

In defense of public health, the environment and our economy, power plants must be required to sharply reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s newly adopted rule represents an abdication of leadership and foresight in favor of the unacceptable status quo.

—New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer

Joining New York State in the suit are California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York City, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. A coalition of environmental organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense filed a related petition today.

The suit charges that EPA’s rulemaking in this matter is inadequate in two fundamental ways:

  • EPA refused to regulate carbon dioxide, despite overwhelming research and scientific consensus that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and thus harms “public health and welfare.” EPA’s claim that it does not have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is contrary to the plain language of the Clean Air Act.

  • EPA failed to set adequate standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, power plant pollutants that contribute to soot, smog, acid rain and higher levels of respiratory disease. The law dictates that the emission safeguards be set at levels that require use of the best demonstrated technology, but EPA is setting weak standards that can be met through less effective technologies.

A growing body of evidence, including reports from the National Academy of Sciences, NASA and major universities, has found that increasing global temperatures will have dramatic effects in the United States, including rising sea levels, worsened air quality, water shortages and droughts, and increased intensity of hurricanes.

Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions responsible for increasing temperatures worldwide. According to current projections, dozens or even hundreds of new coal-fired plants will be built in the United States over the next 15 years. Under the current rule, these plants would face no requirement to control or reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Since the power plants have a life span of 40-60 years, the plants built in the near future will determine the level of our carbon emissions for generations.

The suit may be targeting powerplants, but forcing the EPA to regulate CO2 from that sector would also force regulation in the transportation sector.

April 27, 2006 in Climate Change, Policy | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

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There is such a strong momentum over a century for the use of fossil fuels, that nothing will stop its use until all is deleted from the earth.
The states are just doing a knee jerk reaction like congress investigating the oil companies for countless times.
So in thirty years or so it will not be an issue because fossil fuels will be deleted from the ground.
Most likely by then we will be on atomic power.
EV cars will be the rage, and all powered by clean nuclear energy.

I guess this is good cause it's the direction we want to go, but I couldn't help it. The first thought that flashed through my mind was: "Oh brother, only in litigous America."

Sounds to me like somebody is running for election. I cannot believe that a court would inject itself into this political controversy.

According to Clean Air Act, which defines EPA mandate to regulate air quality, CO2 is not considered as harmful pollutant, and since EPA has no legal rights to regulate it emissions.

Sorry to see the lawyers are taking the money away from the problems solvers. I pay for both sides on this one.
Looks like the self sustaining env groups are using their dollars wisely again.

Take a look at the great progress made by governments (Canada, Spain, etc) that have signed on to the Kyoto accords to see how effective government action has been in this area.

From what I see here, it does not appear as if any court has yet "injected" itself into this debate. Certain attorneys general filed lawsuits today, but anyone with a typewriter and a $100 check (for the clerk's fee) can file a lawsuit. What the judge does when this case finally gets scheduled and comes before him is the real question.

tony,

it may only take another 30-50 years to use up our oil, but we have at least a 300 year supply of coal and many times that much in other fossil fuels like natural gas that have just been too expensive to use so far.

I find it fascinating that those states (New England) least able to produce their own power are suing to regulate power plants in the coal producing states (Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia) that produce the surplus power that the "Blue" states must have. It is a well known fact that most of the New England power plants use either oil or Canadian natural gas to make electricity, and that they are phasing out whatever coal and nuclear plants they have left.

Everyone by now should understand the predicament created by depending on expensive inported oil, and it appears that North American natural gas production hit its peak production around 2001-2002; Canada now has at most 6 to 8 years of gas production left before a catastophe looms for anyone depending on reliable, cheap supplies of natural gas.

New England has such scant power generating capacity that by 2008 they WILL BE having power outages in the winter time.

I think that the power grids should be broken up into regional entities with minimal cross-grid exchange of electridity as they once existed prior to 1991. This would effectively isolate the power consumers from any and all sources they depend upon to make up the difference that they are unable and unwilling to produce.

This would shut down these law suits real fast, I would predict.

All I can say is that if you live in New England you had better invest in home heating equipment that can function without electricity.

Carbon dioxide knows no boundaries. Please show me where the clean air act says that co2 is not a pollutant. Bush promised to regulate co2 and then reneged, probably because he didn't know what co2 was or how it was produced.

If one recognizes that there is a problem, we must find a way to mandate the reductdion in co2. Since Bush and company will not act, this lawsuit is absolutely necessary.

Dave:

You do realize that if NYC emitted zero pollutants, they'd still have 250 days of "bad air days" a year, due do the power plant emissions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, don't you? It turns out that wind blows west to east in those parts.

So, they're not breathing in their pollutants -- they're breathing in the pollutants of others. That's what they're interested in reducing, given that they've already worked to reduce their own.

As for fuel source for power production, most states don't generate their own fuel sources. PA isn't exactly pumping much oil from the ground. And, for your general knowledge, as of 1999, this is the percent of electricity generated from coal in the following states:
NY: 16%
CA: 1%
CT: 7%
MA: 28%
NM: 86% (which all comes from NM, incidentally)
OR: 7%
RI: 0%
VT: 0%
WI: 69% (from Dakotas/Montana or KY/OH/WV? I don't know)

So, it turns out that there isn't a whole lot of electricity generated from out-of-state coal, contrary to the tone of your note. While gas is higher, that's not even a tremendous amount of production. It turns out that hydro and nuclear result in most of the base production, and nearly all of the states in the suit have booming growth in renewable energy production.

New England has such scant power generating capacity that by 2008 they WILL BE having power outages in the winter time.

I doubt it, given that summer peak load is around 24,000 MW and winter peak load is around 18,000 MW. Since capacity is around 32,000 MW, I think we'll be alright, but thanks for your concern.

And as for
All I can say is that if you live in New England you had better invest in home heating equipment that can function without electricity.

You're obviously not a New Englander. Most New England homes operate on home heating oil or natural gas as electricity is traditionally more expensive of the fuels and many homes and businesses are older than modern electric heat. This explains why summer peaks are so much higher than winter peaks, and why your commentary is completely off-base.

P.S. Of the 9 states (and two cities) suing, only 4 New England states and 0 cities are part of the lawsuit, and they represent a tiny fraction of the total population represented by the suit -- of the 68,000,000 people living in lawsuit locations, only 11,000,000 live in New England states in the lawsuit (1999 data). So, we're talking less than 17% of the people represented in the law suit are New Englanders. Even if you throw in NY (NOT part of New England), you only get another 19.2M -- still keeping the percentage well below 50%.

clean nuclear energy

Clean? Cmon. We're not idiots here.

If the same amount of fossil fuel is used to build identical output coal and nuclear powerplants then nukes come out way ahead on CO2 and every other air pollutant.
New Mexico exports most of its coal fired electricity to Nevada and California.

He initially thought he was regulating c3po thats why he reneged. { I actually like him by couldnt resist that set uo }

Hydro as base? Are they nuts?

Stomy:

Since you seek to "correct" comments I have made concerning the energy situations of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States, I figured that I would respond in a similar manner:

"I doubt it, given that summer peak load is around 24,000 MW and winter peak load is around 18,000 MW. Since capacity is around 32,000 MW, I think we'll be alright, but thanks for your concern"

Please consider this article in the Boston Globe concerning your inpending power crunch. Of course, we should probably ignore them-they're probably the fundamentalist-type crackpots who wear tinfoil hats:

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2006/03/23/utility_officials_ponder_coal_nuclear_plants/

"So, it turns out that there isn't a whole lot of electricity generated from out-of-state coal, contrary to the tone of your note. While gas is higher, that's not even a tremendous amount of production. It turns out that hydro and nuclear result in most of the base production, and nearly all of the states in the suit have booming growth in renewable energy production."

Here is the rundown for electrical energy sources used by the aforementioned states:
(Figures found at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html)
Coal 33%
Nuclear 37.28%
Oil 4%
Gas 14.5%
Hydro 7.5%
RENEWABLES 3.2%

It turns out they have a big problems. Expensive,scarce oil and gas make up 18.5% of the mix. Oil at 4% isn't a big problem, but gas sure is, since North America hit peak production in 2001-2002. Think that's not a problem?:

http://republic-news.org/archive/131-repub/131_crawford.htm

By the way, the Northeast DOES use a significant amount of coal. I wonder what Pennsylvania officials think about this carbon dioxide lawsuit?

"Nearly all of the states in the suit have booming growth in renewable energy production."

Solar Photaic Cells at high latitudes, or wind cannot provide sufficient reliable energy to do much of anything. All of these have wildly fluctuating voltage outputs, which could be tolerated at the point of use but cannot be fed into a RELIABLE powergrid. You can have either fluctuating voltage and constant cycle, or constant voltage and fluctuating cycle. In this country it is mandated that the cycle be held constant at 60 Hertz. The problem: You cannot feed fluctuating voltage into a grid having constant voltage.

"You're obviously not a New Englander. Most New England homes operate on home heating oil or natural gas as electricity is traditionally more expensive of the fuels and many homes and businesses are older than modern electric heat. This explains why summer peaks are so much higher than winter peaks, and why your commentary is completely off-base."

Oh, with the world hitting peaking oil and gas production, I'd say that New England has a BIG problem. I'll predict that within 15 years everyone will be heating their houses, businesses, and institutions with coal again. Also, please tell me how you can run oil and gas furnaces during power-cuts? Only gas appliances equipped with millivolt controls can operate sans the power grid. This does not apply to oil. The point of my statement was that you cannot heat your house if the power goes down. The fact is that soon there will not enough natural gas to both heat homes AND generate electricity. Without electricity, having the gas on at one's house really doesn't mean very much!

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