With climate policy gridlock in the U.S. Senate, the Obama administration is slowly and steadily moving forward with regulations the limit greenhouse gas pollution from stationary sources, something that strikes fear in the hearts of oil and coal industry executives everywhere. In the latest development on December 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its timeline for regulating carbon dioxide pollution from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act.
The December 23 announcement itself “wasn’t a huge deal,” says David Roberts of Grist. But the ultimate regulations, which will apply to factories, oil refineries, and power plants, including many of the oldest, dirtiest coal plants, is a huge deal.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s quote in the agency’s press release reinforces Roberts’ analysis, “We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce [greenhouse gas] pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans, and contributes to climate change,” she explains. “These standards will help American companies attract private investment to the clean energy upgrades that make our companies more competitive and create good jobs here at home,” continues Jackson.
Environmental advocates gave similarly measured statements to the press:
“By setting timetables for issuing standards to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants and oil refineries, EPA is doing precisely what is needed to protect our health and welfare and provide businesses certainty at a time when some would prefer to roll back the clock,” David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center, told the Washington Post.
“Global warming poses perhaps the greatest threat to our environment and our public health, and we need to clean up the oldest and dirtiest power plants to begin to solve the problem,” said Nathan Willcox, federal global warming program director for Environment America, in a press release. “The sooner we get started cleaning up the largest sources of pollution and transitioning to cleaner energy sources, the better chance we’ll give future generations to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.“
Roberts explains that EPA has been “dribbling” out global warming regulations over the last year without much fanfare. Roberts summarizes the regulatory developments in a blog post that is a bit technical but as good as it gets for explaining this stuff. His final paragraph sums it up well:
“Bottom line: This latest development is one more step in the march toward finally getting large existing sources of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants to clean up. But the real action will come next year, when the standards themselves are announced. Stay tuned!”