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EPA Reconsiders Bush Administration Emissions Policy

February 18, 2009

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it will re-evaluate a Bush administration decision to allow coal-fired power plants to open without taking carbon emissions into account.

The move is considered a step toward the regulation of carbon emissions, and is praised by many environmental leaders who petitioned to overturn the rule.

Lisa Jackson, administrator for the EPA, made the decision due to the petitioners’ request, and asked for a period of public comment before a new rule is agreed upon.

“This will be a fair, impartial and open process that will allow the American public and key stakeholders to review this … to comment on its potential effects on communities across the country,” Jackson said. “EPA’s fundamental mission is to protect human health and the environment and we intend to do just that.”

In the statement, Jackson warned companies not to rely on the Bush administration rule in seeking permission to build power plants.

“Today’s victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular,” David Bookbinder told Reuters.  Bookbinder is a member of the Sierra Club, one of the groups that petitioned for the rule change.

“This decision stops the Bush administration’s final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming,” Bookbinder said.

Two other groups, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, also requested that the rule be re-evaluated.

The move was the second time this month that the new Obama administration departed from Bush environmental rulings.

During the first week of February, the EPA said it would reconsider allowing California and other states to cut greenhouse gas emissions by new cars and trucks.  The request was denied by the Bush administration.

The Bush administration made many moves during its final year over the issue of limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.

On November 13, 2008, the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board concluded that the Clean Air Act allowed them to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

The Bush administration countered when EPA chief Stephen Johnson said the board’s conclusion was invalid in a memorandum.

Jackson noted that the memo was not “the final word on the appropriate interpretation of the Clean Air Act requirements” after being sued by environmental groups to overturn his ruling.

Image Caption: Coal fired power plants provide about 50% of consumed electricity in the United States. This is the Castle Gate Plant near Helper, Utah. Courtesy Wikipedia

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