March 30, 2016

Full disclosure: I am writing this post on a laptop that I am fully aware is powered by coal. My local community in south-central Illinois depends on coal-fired power plants to provide power to homes and businesses.

The issue is who recognizes that this type of power is unsustainable for the planet, that we better bite the bullet now to save the planet. That's what the Clean Power Plan is about. In one of Antonin Scalia's last cases, the Supreme Court put a hold on the Clean Power Plan 5-4 because certain states want to challenge the plan in Federal Court.

This is an important week for defenders of the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s strategy to combat climate change. Tuesday is the deadline for states, utilities and environmental groups who support it to file briefs.

The plan, which is being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals, would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to set the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

The D.C. Circuit Court will hear oral arguments on the Clean Power Plan on June 2.

Of course, a 4-4 court might just uphold the DC court's decision. That could be great for the planet, but...

...then there's the Attorney General of West Virginia, Patrick Morrissey, who wants to give speeches about EPA overreach:

“It’s an unlawful power grab of epic proportions and goes further than virtually any regulation we have seen in our lifetime. If left unchallenged, this power grab will increase electricity rates, jeopardize the power grid’s reliability and destroy West Virginia’s coal industry along with the livelihoods of countless families who depend upon its success,” said Morrisey.

Morrisey went on to say he would strongly oppose efforts to “bully” job producers into compliance with the “illegal and unprecedented” regulation.

It's against the editorial policy of this blog to reply "Yeah, bite me," so I'll let the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Randy Huffman, take a professional stand. Trust me, Huffman is under just as much political pressure to save jobs and keep big coal from over-running him with money. On the other hand, he has to live in the real world where if the state of West Virginia fights the EPA forever, the Federal Government will override whatever their state decides is politically expedient: (Emphasis added.)

Many coal-state officials, including Senate President Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, want states to refuse to cooperate with the EPA.

Huffman says taking the “Just say no” path could be risky.

“If ‘Just say no’ is your position, what you’re saying is, I believe I’m going to win in court, and if I lose that, I am willing to accept the federal plan,” Huffman said.

The feds are likely to impose a cap and trade scheme if the state loses in court and does not have an alternate plan, he said.

“You won’t have a seat at the table if you just say no.”

Huffman also understands the reality of bringing cleaner power plants online -- it takes years to do that, so if you know you're going to be required to do it, might as well get started. At the moment West Virginia has NO gas fired power plants, at all.

“We need to understand how power plants work. A lot of elected folks out there, and a lot of others in various industries are calling for us to shake our fist at EPA and all that,” Huffman said.

“Electric power plants, they don’t operate that way. They need certainty. They need long lead times to make investments. They want to know the rules, and at the end of the day, they’re going to get there. [But be warned,] It might be extremely expensive.”

The effects of Climate Change are expensive. Dirty air and water are expensive. Having between 11 and 14% of your state's children suffering with asthma is expensive, too. (CDC link, pdf file)

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