Caught Without a CO2 Plan: GA Judge Halts Power Plant

by kespeland on July 3, 2008

A Fulton County, Georgia judge has blocked the building of Dynegy‘s new coal-fired power plant because the company has no plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Not that it’s required to…yet. (Stories about the decision appeared in most major newspapers, including this one.)

This could become a landmark decision, because right now, only certain pollutants are regulated–like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides—for power plants. But that could change. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA must regulate CO2 as a pollutant, under the Clean Air Act, just as it regulates other pollutants. The goal, of course: to curb global warming. (A .pdf of the court’s decision is here: U.S. Supreme Court decision in Mass. vs. EPA)

But nothing happened. For a while. Until…

The EPA finally, after much foot-dragging, made good on the justices’ order and put together recommendations for regulating CO2. Officials sent the document in an e-mail to the White House. But the White House refused to open the e-mail. Instead, the EPA re-worked and watered down the proposal. And it’s still not settled on any firm regulations.

Still, the Georgia judge reasoned that, because the highest court has already ruled this gas must be regulated, not having a plan in place to deal with it was essentially violating the Clean Air Act. No one’s certain whether or not other judges will follow suit when it comes to proposed coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, Dynegy plans to appeal.

(Note: A senior EPA official recently resigned over the Bush administration’s handling of the EPA’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gases.  He spoke to Grist, an online environmental magazine, about his decision.)

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