“Michael Bloomberg’s war on coal” – Politico, 8 April 2015

The fight to bring an end to coal has been raging on for months, and now Michael Bloomberg is attempting to serve the final blow: donating millions of dollars to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, with the aim to close down hundreds of US coal plants.

First, however, Bloomberg required the Sierra Club to collect data on how his money would be used. He required, for instance, that the organization measure the impact their work would have by mapping out every US coal facility and outlining the facilities’ pollution controls.

The group was successful in collecting data from 45 states. So, in addition to the $50 million he donated in 2011 to the group’s campaign, Bloomberg donated another $110 million, and then donated a supplementary $30 million in early April. So far, the group has secured the shuttering of 188 coal plants. In 2010, these coal plant owners had already planned on closing or re-purposing the plants — the Sierra Club and Bloomberg gave them that extra push. Previously, before Bloomberg’s first donation in 2011, the Sierra Club’s reach was only a mere 15 states.

Bloomberg’s pledge to stop coal has had a profound effect on the industry, wiping out jobs and prompting higher electricity costs. Before, the campaign’s set goal was to shutter a third of US coal plants by 2020. With the extra money, the campaign has presented a new goal: to cut US coal plants in half by 2017.

While Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, we became familiar with his passion for bettering health, spearheading many crusades against guns, sodas, and tobacco. According to Bloomberg, the 188 shuttered coal plants means that there will be 7,500 less heart attacks and 80,000 less asthma attacks in 2015.

Bloomberg has taken his fight against coal a further step by giving $24 million to aid states in developing low-carbon solutions to meet the Obama administration’s power plant regulations.

The Sierra Club doesn’t get all the credit for closing those 188 coal plants. The US’s lower natural gas price is effecting the coal industry, as well as the EPA’s mercury rule, which first became enforced in April 2015 for existing power plants. There are a lot of organizations — both governmental and private — working multiple angles to stop any gains coal might make.

Having said that, coal — the world’s most abundant energy source — will always have an optimum role to play in the global generation of electricity and steel production for a foreseeable future.

(From Politico)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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The “War Of Words On Coal” Continues

Yesterday, the EPA presented new rules for power plants emissions, called the Clean Power Plan proposal. These rules are a small part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he is pursuing through executive action. The four building blocks of the EPA’s proposal are:

    • Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels;
    • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
    • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days-providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
    • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

(via EPA)

According to the EPA, carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants have decreased by 13 percent since 2005. While different states will be given different emissions quotas, 30 percent is the US’s nationwide goal. States have up to three years to draft plans to meet their goals. Initial compliance plans are due June 30, 2016, but some states will be allotted a one-year extension. States that form multi-state plans will be allotted a two-year extension. If a state decides not to formulate a plan, then the EPA will write one for the state.

The EPA will present a number of options that will help the states meet target goals, such as helping power plants to become more efficient and spending more on sources of renewable energy. Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia have already passed laws that permit their environmental agencies to create unique carbon-emission plans. Louisiana and Ohio are also following suit.

Conservatives have been battling Obama’s climate regulations for months. As the 2014 midterm elections loom right around the corner, conservatives and their industry allies will do anything they can to stir the political pot and anger voters. Voters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia are the determining factor in whether or not the Democrats retain the Senate majority. Many Democrats who are openly against the new rules represent coal-producing states, such as West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall—96 percent of his state’s power comes from coal.

The coal industry contends that the new rules will have negative repercussions on the economy, including major damage to coal and manufacturing jobs, increased household electricity costs, and a rising number of brown-outs during extreme heat or cold. The US Chamber of Commerce—opponents of the new regulations—contend that the Clean Power Plan proposal will result in a loss of almost a quarter-million jobs through 2030, will force power plants across the US to shut down, and will inflict $50 billion in yearly costs.

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The US depends on coal for 40 percent of its electricity; however, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from electricity, and within that percentage, coal-fired power plants make up 80% of those emissions. Overall, coal-fired power plants expel 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While conservatives, and some liberals, see the proposed regulations as an attack on the coal industry, Obama sees it as way to not only clean up our environment, but also as a way to avert a national health crisis. Current climate law is dictated by the decades-old Clean Air Act, which regulates pollutants like soot, mercury, lead, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, but not carbon pollution.

The EPA will permit comment on the Clean Power Plan proposal for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and will also conduct public hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh during the week of July 28. The EPA’s proposed rules won’t be finalized until next year.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 2, 2014

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“EPA to be ‘flexible’ on carbon standards” – The Hill, 2 December 2013

The EPA recently announced that it will grant more flexibility to states in reaching new carbon emission regulations for power plants, which will hit huge coal producing states — West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio — hard.

In addition to new carbon emission regulations, the EPA will introduce new state requirements next summer that will help to secure public health from power plant carbon pollution. The EPA will also give great flexibility with these requirements, which will bolster the power plant emissions cutbacks.

Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — have started the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the US’s first market-based regulatory program to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. The RGGI has already reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 40% since 2005, and is currently creating an emission reduction plan for the region.

It is always difficult and painful to balance short-term economic implications — for people and companies directly affected — with long-term environmental standards that impact health and health costs for all.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 4, 2013

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