To much fanfare, controversy, and promises to sue, litigate, and sue and litigate some more, the EPA unveiled its much-anticipated rule for greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. United Mine Workers of America say they feel they've been "kicked to the curb," and UMW president Cecil Roberts ominously warned, "we will not go quietly," and "you will hear from us." Tim Phillips, head of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity promised a "substantial effort" to defeat the rules.
This is so controversial, such a lightning rod, and ... it's been done already, and not in tree-hugging Europe, but right here, a miles north of Seattle and Buffalo, in Canada. The Canadian federal government -- the Conservative Party-led Canadian federal government, headed up by the almost comically unloved Prime Minister Stephen Harper, introduced roughly the same rule as early as 2011, and finalized it in 2012. The rule, like EPA's announced rule yesterday, sets a rate standard for power plants that is easy for natural gas-fired power plants to meet, impossible for coal-fired power plants to meet, unless a heretofore non-existent carbon capture and storage technology is deployed. The Canadian rule was quite realistic (and unambitious) in requiring that the CCS technology achieve a 30% emissions reduction rate.
No one who has had any experience with Environment Canada, the Canadian version of something like the EPA, believes that Environmental Canada, much less one under the government of Stephen Harper, was capable of forming such a rule (the Canadian rule was also not 645 pages like the EPA rule was). There is a 100% chance that the Canadian rule was developed with considerable EPA input. The Canadian rule also grandfathers up to the end of the "useful life" of a power plant -- 45 years. Sensible to some, but I've argued against grandfathering, as have many.
I can appreciate timing considerations, but remain puzzled. I can see the Obama Administration wishing to avoid rolling it out right before the 2012 re-election bid, but why wait until now? There is no margin for error if the President truly wants this in place by the time he leaves office. If that was his wish, he squandered 18 months getting this rolled out. And all the time, Bob and Doug Mackenzie had already set the precedent.