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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 01 2014, @03:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the its-your-mess-you-clean-it-up dept.

In a 6-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate air pollution from coal-burning power plants across state lines handing the Obama administration what is arguably its biggest environmental victory in its effort to use the Clean Air Act as a tool to fight global warming and reduce carbon emissions. "Today's Supreme Court decision means that millions of Americans can breathe easier," says Fred Krupp, president for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which was a party to the case.

At issue was whether the EPA could use what are known as good-neighbor rules to regulate emissions that cross state borders. In short, the Supreme Court ruled that a power plant in Ohio whose emissions blow east into New York is liable for the damage caused there, even if it's hundreds of miles away from the source. Utilities must now weigh the high costs of cleaning up their coal operations against simply shutting them down. Given the cheap price of natural gas, the decision is likely to push utilities into building new natural gas-fired power plants. By 2020, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates, 60 gigawatts of coal-fired power production will be retiredabout 20 percent of the total amount of coal-fired capacity in the U.S. If anything, the Supreme Court will quicken that pace of retirements.

Coal is nonetheless expected to make up 32 percent of US electricity production in 2040 and coal's outlook is even better abroad, where China, India, and other rapidly expanding economies are eager customers for the inexpensive fuel. World coal consumption is expected to rise at an average rate of 1.3 percent per year through 2040, according to EIA. Republicans in Congress denounced the decision. "The administration's overreaching regulation will drive up energy costs and threaten jobs and electric reliability," say Representatives Fred Upton and Edward Whitfield. "We cannot allow E.P.A.'s aggressive regulatory expansion to go unchecked. We will continue our oversight of the agency and our efforts to protect American families and workers from E.P.A.'s onslaught of costly rules."

[Editor's Note: This Submitter occasionally submits the same story to other sites]

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Sir Garlon on Thursday May 01 2014, @03:34PM

    by Sir Garlon (1264) on Thursday May 01 2014, @03:34PM (#38530)

    I don't blame the submitter, but TFA makes a misleading statement in the first paragraph. This ruling has little to do directly with global warming and relates instead to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide [bloomberg.com] emissions. These are sources of acid rain and smog, respectively. That article is linked from TFA, but apparently the author of TFA did not bother to read it.

    The implications for the Obama administration's anti-AGW agenda are that this ruling affirms the EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act. The administration wants to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions as well, but as far as I remember whether greenhouse gases count as pollutants under the Clean Air Act is a separate court battle.

    --
    [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by frojack on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:05PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:05PM (#38611) Journal

      Exactly.

      The whole article and therefore the summary are about two different things.

      Further, the two mentioned pollutants are ALREADY scrub-able and scrubbers are already installed in ALL new plants, as well as most of the older ones.

      This ruling is leverage to get the few remaining hold outs to install the scrubbers:
      TFA:

      The ruling may prompt utilities such as Southern Co. (SO), Energy Future Holdings Corp.’s Luminant and American Electric Power Co. (AEP) to shutter coal-fired power plants or invest billions of dollars in new pollution-control systems.

      CO2 emissions are also sequester-able [epa.gov], and this is done at 120 plants in the US already, but it is a lot more costly than scrubbing. Note that sequestration has NOT YET been widely applied to most coal or Gas generation utilities, even the newest ones.

      With scrubbing, and sequestration, costly as they may be, Coal fired generation could be around for a long time, because the only remaining issue is fly-ash, and renewable energy is still hovering around 9% [institutef...search.org] of the demand.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Friday May 02 2014, @12:24AM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 02 2014, @12:24AM (#38697) Journal

        CO2 emissions are also sequester-able

        Except the cost of CO2 sequestration is 25-40% [wikipedia.org] of the total energy output of the energy plant.
        Add to this the initial investment and the sale price of the energy to end consumers is going to higher.
        Think also that the storage for the captured CO2 is (as anything in this world) limited and certainly the CO2 needs more storage space than the coal that was originally burned. It is easy to predict that the price for sequestering will increase.
        One on top of the other, the price of coal energy is going to increase.

        With scrubbing, and sequestration, costly as they may be, Coal fired generation could be around for a long time, because the only remaining issue is fly-ash, and renewable energy is still hovering around 9% of the demand.

        May be much shorter than you think.
        The price of renewables goes down by the day (5 kW solar panels - installed on your roof and including the grid connection - is priced to around $7k in Australia). More and more people will be pushed by the prices towards renewables, to the point in which one can speak of the "utilities spiral of death" - visibly happening in Germany [greentechmedia.com] - 16 percent of German companies are now energy self-sufficient.
        Let me say it once again: one in six German companies don't buy a net energy any more

        Another fact: from 2008 to 2013, the top 20 european energy utilities have lost half of their stock value [economist.com]=0.5T$ (yeah, I know, GFC and all that. Wouldn't you think the investors should prefer some stocks for companies with a solid earning during crisis?)

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 2) by Covalent on Thursday May 01 2014, @03:57PM

    by Covalent (43) on Thursday May 01 2014, @03:57PM (#38537) Journal

    The US (and the rest of the world) needs to get serious about CO_2 emissions...and fast. There is a real possibility that huge portions of Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Manhattan will be uninhabitable / under water in a surprisingly short period of time (the lifetime of the babies living there currently). The EPA currently estimates about 2.3 feet sea level rise in New York City by 2100*. That equates to millions of people that will have to relocate from incredibly productive, vibrant, and valuable areas. Add the other cities and low-lying areas, and just that one economic impact is enough to justify massive changes right now.

    Add to that weather changes in prime farming areas, stronger hurricanes, extinctions (particularly in fisheries), etc. and you've got an enormously compelling financial reason to act quickly and decisively.

    So if you can't get behind climate policy reform for political or moral reasons, let the almighty dollar help: Our government will have to spend TRILLIONS of dollars relocating / securing land from the ever-encroaching ocean. Or they could start spending billions now to mitigate (or maybe even prevent) the damage.

    *http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/future.h tml

    Note: It could be MUCH worse...worse case scenarios put 6 feet of water in Manhattan.

    --
    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Teckla on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:57PM

      by Teckla (3812) on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:57PM (#38552)

      The US (and the rest of the world) needs to get serious about CO_2 emissions...and fast.

      With 7 billion humans on this planet, all wanting to improve their quality of life, even if it's at the expense of their neighbor, and hundreds of countries, each with different laws and receptiveness when it comes to curbing CO2 emissions, it seems excessively unlikely that we'll get CO2 emissions under control merely because it's the right thing to do.

      I'm hanging what little hope I have on new technology making burning coal expensive and obsolete by comparison. It seems like our only hope...

      • (Score: 1) by GmanTerry on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:41PM

        by GmanTerry (829) on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:41PM (#38568)

        ...which points to the REAL problem facing the world. CO2 emissions are a problem but tackling that will not solve the overlying problem. Humans have become a virus on this planet. There are just too many people. The way to fix CO2 and almost every other problem facing mankind is to start making a serious effort to adjust the human population. I can hear the cries of racism and ethnic cleansing but the population will double again in 40 years. This cannot continue. The quality of life will become so poor that there will be endless wars and death in the fight for survival and resources. Is religion the reason no one will discuss or even acknowledge this? People are the problem. Reduce the population and the problems will also be reduced.

        --
        Since when is "public safety" the root password to the Constitution?
        • (Score: 1) by Tramii on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:57PM

          by Tramii (920) on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:57PM (#38581)

          So, how do you propose we reduce the world's population?

          Seriously, I'd love to hear a fair/reasonable solution.

          • (Score: 0, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:42PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:42PM (#38602)

            Sterilize the poor. If you don't think its reasonable, its because you're not rich, and would be one of the unwashed masses facing sterilization, so your personal bias prevents you from seeing its benefits.

          • (Score: 2, Funny) by GeminiDomino on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:44PM

            by GeminiDomino (661) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:44PM (#38603)

            Step 1: Export the US "healthcare" system.

            --
            "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture"
          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hemocyanin on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:02PM

            by hemocyanin (186) on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:02PM (#38609) Journal

            This is a difficult problem, but let me say this as an intentionally child-free individual:

            Step 1: would be to stop glorifying parenthood as the pinnacle of human achievement (it isn't, it's just some biology and chemistry and any idiot can do it), and to stop hassling those who choose to be child-free. The baby pressure is high in the late 20s and early 30s, but by the mid-40s, everyone gives up. Instead of pushing all the bullshit pressure to have kids, people should respect the decisions of those who choose against it. I have never in my life regretted my decision and my life is better for it. Plus, I could burn barrels of heavy crude in my back yard everyday for the rest of my life and come out carbon negative.

            Step 2: incentivize child-free status -- it doesn't have to be a lot, but maybe a $500 tax credit each year that a person doesn't breed.

            Step 3: Make it not OK to discriminate in the many subtle ways child-free people are discriminated agains. For example, breeders get lots of leeway for being late and missing work because their sprog has the sniffles. You know who picks up that slack? The child-free people -- obviously our time is not worth much because we don't have kids. Right -- my time is incredibly valuable to me and it is as important as a breeder's time.

            Step 4: A reality show featuring the child-free life would be good. People don't have a frame of reference for being child-free and it should be presented in a positive light. Not the usual disparaging "you're so selfish" BS -- truth is, it is the breeders who are selfishly destroying the planet. I'm making it better for your kids, so rather than judge me, you should thank me.

            • (Score: 2) by velex on Thursday May 01 2014, @10:42PM

              by velex (2068) on Thursday May 01 2014, @10:42PM (#38668) Journal

              I like those ideas. Personally, I'd make everyone's taxes about the equivalent of someone with 1 child and put additional taxes on having more than 2 children. I'd also eliminate having children as a way to get onto entitlement programs (food stamps, subsidized housing, and especially cash hand-outs). (Of course, to be fair, we'd need to somehow make sure that just about every last teenage girl is on the pill until she's 25 and knows wtf she's doing.)

              It amazes me how hung up people get about having grandkids. Hmm... wait... I think one problem just solved the other. He's what we need. Got a case of somebody with a womb who can't understand why come [sic] she keeps getting pregnant? Got an couple who are infuriated with their son or daughter for murdering their unconceived grandkids? Adopt-a-grandparent!

          • (Score: 1) by GmanTerry on Thursday May 01 2014, @09:28PM

            by GmanTerry (829) on Thursday May 01 2014, @09:28PM (#38657)

            For one, I would make it an open discussion. Eduction is the key. Turn today's enviromental activists into people with a wider view. We don't really have Earth Day to "Save the Planet". We do it to save humans. Lets stop making population control a taboo subject and discuss it in an intelligent fashion. The resoures of this small planet are limited. How about suggesting that we push towards zero growth? Every family has 2 children. What's wrong with that?

            --
            Since when is "public safety" the root password to the Constitution?
        • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:05PM

          by Sir Garlon (1264) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:05PM (#38587)

          The way to fix CO2 and almost every other problem facing mankind is to start making a serious effort to adjust the human population.

          I agree, and you may be pleased to learn there are organizations and governments working diligently around the clock to accomplish this -- indirectly. I have become kind of a fan of Hans Rosling [wikipedia.org], who has done a ton of data analysis and concluded that the population crisis is not nearly as bad as it looks. I'd encourage you to check out this 14-minute video [gapminder.org]. He also has a longer one [gapminder.org] that I haven't taken time to watch yet.

          --
          [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by kwerle on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:22PM

          by kwerle (746) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:22PM (#38595) Homepage

          ...The quality of life will become so poor that there will be endless wars and death in the fight for survival and resources...

          You just mentioned the solution. It ain't ideal, but it's the only one we'll get.

        • (Score: 2) by tathra on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:39PM

          by tathra (3367) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:39PM (#38601)

          the population isnt going to continue growing exponentially. as countries industrialize and the quality of life increases, there is less desire to have more children since child mortality rates decrease, life expectancy increases, and children become more 'costly' [wikipedia.org] (see demographic transition [wikipedia.org]).

          i think the estimates i've seen say world population will stabilize around 9-10 billion, with basically all of the growth occurring in "third-world" countries as they industrialize, while other countries will see their population decline. i'm not sure if anybody's really considered the consequences of china's "one child" policy combined with its "boys only" informal policy, but without girls their population will be greatly affected; there's also japan, which has far more elderly than young, so they might be headed for a population crash as well.

        • (Score: 1) by hoochiecoochieman on Friday May 02 2014, @11:33AM

          by hoochiecoochieman (4158) on Friday May 02 2014, @11:33AM (#38847)

          Please, if you want to make a valid point, don't write bullshit like that.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Nygmus on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:06PM

    by Nygmus (3310) on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:06PM (#38541)

    A windbaggy dissenting opinion by Scalia.

    Thanks for that, Reagan. Real cool guy you picked for a Supreme Court chair.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by keplr on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:51PM

    by keplr (2104) on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:51PM (#38549) Journal

    We are slowly starting to wake up to the fact that making people responsible for their negative externalities is not anti-capitalist; it's just good common sense and proper stewardship of scarce public resources. The commons, including the atmosphere, is not a "free" dumping ground for the byproducts of your economic activity.

    --
    I don't respond to ACs.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by tathra on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:19PM

      by tathra (3367) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:19PM (#38593)

      thats true, but too many people (usually from faux news) scream that any kind of regulation is communist/socialist/muslim*/whatever scare word they're using this generation, and a majority of their viewers/followers blindly believe them no matter what they say or whether or not its backed by fact or evidence. capitalism has become a religion, with far too much blind faith in the mythical "invisible hand" to right all wrongs and punish all evils, and either outright hostility or lots of "No True Scottsman"s to any criticisms of it. i wish i was joking, but i'm not.

      * lets be realistic - as far as most of the US is concerned, its a synonym for "terrorist", which is fucking disgusting, not to mention it is used as an actual scare-word against the president.

      • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday May 02 2014, @02:08AM

        by Tork (3914) on Friday May 02 2014, @02:08AM (#38720)
        They don't have faith in the invisible hand, they're just on the profitable side of it and pushing that story helps them sleep at night.
        --
        Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:32PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:32PM (#38563)

    "LOOK! OVER! THERE! DIRTY COAL!" ... now let me go prospecting some more promising uranium mines.
    "no-fine splitting uranium last longer then carving your initials in a cave or park bench(tm)"

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by tathra on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:03PM

    by tathra (3367) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:03PM (#38585)

    we've known for a while that pollution from china is responsible for a portion of the smog and pollution on the west coast (if you havent heard, google it, there's lots of links to choose from). now that the cost of pollution crosses state lines, it should be inevitable that such international pollution will be addressed as well; it certainly needs to be.

    unfortunately, lightning in africa spurs hurricanes (again, google it, lots of links), and it wouldnt surprise me if somebody tried to use that to extract money or whatever from african countries, citing "international pollution" or some nonsense, so any laws/treaties/non-binding agreements/whatever need to be sure that actual natural acts, like lightning and hurricane, arent covered, while non-natural acts ("[technically] burning coal is natural" will undoubtedly be used as an argument) are specifically targeted.

  • (Score: 2) by Rune of Doom on Thursday May 01 2014, @09:33PM

    by Rune of Doom (1392) on Thursday May 01 2014, @09:33PM (#38659)

    Seriously, am I in an alternate universe here or something? Did the U.S. Supreme Court actually just issue a ruling that was not pro-corporate? (I mean, we're still all screwed in the medium-term anyways, but seriously an actual ruling against coal power?) If we're lucky, both the Kochs will die of apoplexy as a result.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Foobar Bazbot on Thursday May 01 2014, @11:38PM

      by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Thursday May 01 2014, @11:38PM (#38691) Journal

      Not to be too cynical (if that's even possible...), but according to frojack's comment [soylentnews.org] most coal-fired power plants already have scrubbers for the pollutants this pertains to. In that case, the cost of operating and maintaining this additional equipment puts them at a competitive disadvantage vs. the few that don't; that makes this ruling arguably in favor of the majority of the coal-fired power industry.