“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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“Top Court to Weigh Pollution Standards” – Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2014

This past November, the US Supreme Court surveyed the case that presents the US’s first standards obligating power plants to curb mercury emissions and various air toxins, one of many major elements in President Obama’s newly introduced climate policy.

The case is being disputed by the utility industry and almost two dozen states, namely states where coal is a major player in their economies. The case will go to trial in the spring and the court will reach a decision in June 2015. Concurrently, Obama is is working on more regulations that will reduce existing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions.

The EPA also introduced an amended national standard for ground-level ozone, or smog, in November; enforcement of renewed ozone standards rely on the mercury rule. The mercury rule was initially proposed in 2012 and will be enforced beginning in April 2015 for existing power plants, which obligates plants that are powered by coal and oil to eliminate most of their mercury emissions.

What falls on the Supreme Court is whether the EPA’s new regulations should acknowledge how much the regulations will cost utilities. This has been an ongoing complaint from utility and power companies, and many coal states, which assert that placing restrictions on power plants will drive up the cost of electricity. According to these companies and states, the EPA’s rules will increase utility industry costs by $9.6 billion per year.

The EPA argues that the public-health gains from reducing air pollutants surpass any additional costs to utilities: the public will benefit $37 billion to $90 billion per year, and avoid 11,000 deaths per year.

The result of this case can affect EPA regulations, such as the agency’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions from almost 600 fossil fuel-fired plants, which was supported by the Supreme Court in 2007. If the court doesn’t rule in favor of the EPA, the EPA might not have as much power — or be as ambitious — in the future.

This month, the EPA will distribute final emissions standards for new power plants; the agency will issue similar standards for existing power plants this summer. The mercury rule instructs coal utilities to use scrubbers, which will help lower emissions. Many facilities have been given an extra year to install scrubber technology.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 14, 2015

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