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US Environmental Record

Coal power plants

Project: US Environmental Issues
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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The energy and utility industries lobby Congress to attach a rider to a pending appropriations bill that would deny the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department funding to pursue litigation (see November 3, 1999) against a group of mid-western and southern utility companies for violations of the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. In letters to Congress, the groups insist that failing to pass the rider “could have severe implications for [electric] supply reliability in the near future.… [U]nits covered by the enforcement action could potentially be shut down.” Environmental groups counter that passing the rider would make enforcement of NSR impossible. Congress does not pass the rider. [Washington Post, 11/15/1999]

Category Tags: New Source Review, Coal Industry, Oil and gas industry

Coal and utility companies lobby the Bush administration’s energy task force, headed by Vice President Cheney, to include in its forthcoming energy plan a recommendation to lift the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act. The energy companies want to be able to expand the capacity of their plants without triggering NSR requirements to upgrade pollution controls. [Wall Street Journal, 5/1/2001; Reuters, 5/2/2001]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Energy industry, New Source Review, Coal Industry

Peabody Energy logo.Peabody Energy logo. [Source: BNet (.com)]Ira F. Engelhardt and Fred Palmer, the CEO and vice president of Peabody Energy, meet with Andrew Lundquist, the director of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). Also at the meeting are Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey. Peabody, the world’s largest coal company, is preparing a stock offering. The task force’s coal policy recommendations will directly impact the stock market’s response to Peabody’s IPO. The task force releases its recommendations (see May 16, 2001) less than a week before Peabody releases its stock offering on May 21. In part because the energy policy strongly emphasizes the use of coal, Peabody raises $420 million by going public—$60 million more than stock analysts predicted. Authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein will write, “The task force was, in effect, flogging a stock offering.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 17-18]

Entity Tags: Jake Bernstein, Fred Palmer, Andrew Lundquist, Ira F. Engelhardt, Lawrence Lindsey, Lou Dubose, Spencer Abraham, National Energy Policy Development Group, Peabody Energy, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Category Tags: Corruption, Corporate welfare, Energy industry, Coal Industry, Cheney Energy Task Force

The State Department meets with industry lobbyists who are “unhappy” about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its current chairman, Robert T. Watson. The following day, the New York Times reports that the US will not support Waston’s nomination, but instead will back Rajendra K. Pachauri, an Indian economist and engineer who is currently one of the panel’s five vice chairmen. [New York Times, 4/3/2002] The decision to nominate Pachauri is made despite letters from numerous influential climate experts who have written to the department in support of Watson, including one by Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist who is chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, and chairman of a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the IPCC’s climate analyses for the White House. Cicerone wrote in an e-mail to the State Department that the administration should support Watson, or at least another atmospheric scientist. Otherwise, “such a change would greatly reduce the emphasis on science in IPCC,” he said. It would be “very, very difficult to find anyone better than Watson.” Industry on the other hand has complained that Watson’s views are biased and that he uses his position to advance his personal anti -coal and -oil agenda. [New York Times, 4/2/2002] In February, an ExxonMobil lobbyist had written to the White House suggesting that Watson not be reelected as chairman (see February 6, 2001).

Entity Tags: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Robert Watson, Rajendra K. Pachauri

Category Tags: Energy industry, Oil and gas industry, Coal Industry

Companies charged with violating New Source ReviewCompanies charged with violating New Source Review [Source: Clear the Air]The Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a rule that makes four important changes to the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. Critics say the changes will help polluting industries maintain the status quo.
Plant-wide Applicability Limits (PALs) - This change will allow a facility to set a Plant-wide Applicability Limit (PAL) based on its average emissions over the previous ten years. A facility will be exempted from the New Source Review process when it upgrades or expands its operations if those changes do not cause the plant’s emissions to exceed its PAL. Critics complain that the change does not require plants to reduce their overall emissions when a facility expands or modifies operations.
Pollution Control and Prevention Projects - Facilities will be permitted to undertake certain environmentally beneficial activities without having to apply for NSR permits.
Clean Unit Provision - Plants that voluntarily install “best available pollution controls” will be afforded “clean unit” status and exempted from NSR provisions for a period of 15 years. The change is retroactive to 1990.
Emissions Calculation Test Methodology - Facilities will be permitted to use a more lenient method when determining if a plant upgrade has increased its emissions. With the exception of power plants, facilities will be permitted to select any 24-month period during the previous decade to serve as its baseline for determining pre-modification emission levels. The EPA also announces that it intends to revise the “Routine Maintenance, Repair and Replacement” exemption so that any modifications whose costs do not exceed a certain level would be exempt from the NSR provisions requiring plants to install pollution controls and conduct impact assessments on the ambient air quality when upgrading or replacing equipment. [Clean the Air, n.d. pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency, 11/22/2002; EarthVision Environmental News, 11/25/2002; ENSR International, 12/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Air pollution, Energy industry, Coal Industry, New Source Review, Key Events

The EPA revises the “New Source Review”(NSR) provision of the Clean Air Act. Previously, the NSR required industrial facilities to install modern pollution controls when they made upgrades to their facilities. However, the provision’s revised definition of “routine maintenance” will exempt some 17,000 older power plants, oil refineries and factories from being required to install pollution controls when they replace equipment, provided that the cost does not exceed 20 percent of the replacement cost of what the EPA broadly defines as the entire “process unit.” This restriction basically allows industries to replace entire plants one-fifth at a time with no concomitant responsibility to controlling its emissions. This applies even to circumstances where the upgrades increase pollution. It is estimated that the revised rule could save billions of dollars for utilities, oil companies and others. Industry has spent the last two years heavily lobbying the White House for this rollback. [Reuters, 8/28/2003; Associated Press, 8/28/2003] New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer promises to sue the administration, telling reporters, “This flagrantly illegal rule will ensure that… Americans will breathe dirtier air, contract more respiratory disease, and suffer more environmental degradation caused by air pollution.” [Reuters, 8/28/2003]

Entity Tags: Eliot Spitzer, Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Air pollution, Coal Industry, New Source Review, Key Events

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes a proposed new rule, part of the Bush administration’s Clear Skies Initiative, that will ostensibly tighten regulations on allowable limits of mercury in the air. Studies show that even small amounts of mercury exposure to unborn children cause severe cognitive and developmental problems. Coal-fired plants are by far the largest emitters of mercury. But when the new regulations are actually established, they allow the coal industry to keep pumping huge amounts of mercury into the atmosphere for decades to come. It is later learned that Bush administration political appointees had pasted language into the regulations that was written by industry lobbyists. Five EPA scientists later say that the EPA had ignored the recommendations of professional staffers and an advisory panel in writing the rule. The rule, critics say, will delay reductions in mercury levels for decades, while saving the power and coal industry billions of dollars. The Bush administration chose a process that, according to Republican environmental regulator John Paul, “would support the conclusion they wanted to reach.” The panel’s 21 months of work on the issue was entirely ignored. Bruce Buckheit, the former director of the EPA’s air enforcement division, says: “There is a politicization of the work of the agency that I have not seen before. A political agenda is driving the agency’s output, rather than analysis and science.” Russell Train, who headed the EPA during the Nixon and Ford administrations, calls the action “outrageous.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/16/2004; Savage, 2007, pp. 302-303]

Entity Tags: Russell Train, Bruce Buckheit, Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Air pollution, Coal Industry, Mercury

Congress passes the Energy Policy Act (EPA) of 2005. The EPA is the product of the secret Cheney energy task force (see January 29, 2001 and May 16, 2001). The act provides $14.5 billion in tax breaks for corporate energy providers, primarily oil, coal, and nuclear power companies. It contains an array of odd and obscure provisions helping industrialists, many generated by the lobbyists and corporate executives who helped craft the bill (see May 10, 2005). It does nothing to discourage consumption by raising fuel efficiency standards, and does little to address the sharply rising price of oil. What it does, primarily, is give huge financial and regulatory breaks to the energy industry. [Savage, 2007, pp. 360]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, National Energy Policy Development Group

Category Tags: Corporate welfare, Energy industry, Oil and gas industry, Coal Industry, Cheney Energy Task Force

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