A recent ruling by the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board could lead to a tougher time for coal power and an easier time for renewable energy. Last Thursday, the board blocked the EPA from issuing a permit to a coal plant addition in Utah and ruled that the agency needs to develop a nationwide standard for dealing with CO2.
This ruling is important because it puts over 100 proposed coal plants on hold while the EPA comes up with new CO2 guidelines. Coal plants will be considered riskier by investors because there's no telling what types of changes will have to be made for them to get the green light. This could convince investors to put their financing behind clean energy projects instead.
If the EPA comes up with even moderately strict CO2 limits, coal companies will have to spend more money on technology that reduces their emissions. This will make coal power more expensive and renewables like solar, wind and geothermal more competitive.
Another positive result of this ruling is that it shows the power of organizations like the Sierra Club. The ruling is due to their appeal to the EPA's original decision to issue the permit to the Utah plant. The Sierra Club cited the 2007 Supreme Court decision that CO2 could be regulated as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. They used this ruling to put pressure on the EPA to stop issuing permits to coal plants, and while the final ruling in this case didn't completely comply with the Sierra Club's interpretation of the act, it did put a stop to all new coal plants for a couple of years.
Hopefully, in the meantime, the Obama administration will take a tough stand on coal and we'll start to see the decline of coal power as we know it and the rise of new clean power technologies.
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