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."
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