On Wednesday, Dawn Reeves at InsideEPA reported that the EPA might soon seek comments on whether or not greenhouse gas pollution from power plants represents a danger worth regulating.
A broader call for reconsiding this basic science was edited out of the Dirty Power Plan proposal at the last minute, but this one applies specifically to the Obama administration’s GHG rules as part of the new source performance standard (NSPS) application of the 2009 Endangerment finding, which applied to mobile sources (automobiles, primarily.)
It’s complicated, and worrisome, but Reeves does provide some reassurance that odds are slim the EPA would actually be successful in overturning the Endangerment finding. After all, a coal mining source told Reeves that “even Scott Pruitt was not willing to take on” the finding, “because as a former attorney general, he recognized it was too embedded in Supreme Court precedent to consider taking on.”
What’s more, having a policy in place provides businesses with regulatory certainty, so they don’t have to keep changing plans with each new administration. And more importantly, if the Trump administration were to overturn the Endangerment finding and scrap all climate regulations instead of weakening them, it would be a boon to the litigants suing the government and fossil fuel companies. The administration potentially doing away with the Endangerment finding would eliminate the commonly invoked defense that policy is best left to the legislative and executive branches, not judicial.
Another source from the utility industry told Reeves that denying that GHGs are a threat to public health is “a fringe position.” According to that source, “the bulk of electric utilities and most of the industry do not agree with” challenging the finding, meaning that the possibility of opening it up to comment is just a way to appease the base. The source continued to say that though the EPA might seek comments on the finding, the agency will “not act on it” because “most of the industry will say, ‘Don’t do it,’ and they’ll rely on that.”
Further evidence that this is just an effort in paying deniers “some lip service,” is the fact that if the EPA did revoke the finding, it would mean “all of the ACE work would be wasted.” If the EPA was actually planning on revoking the Endangerment Finding (as it applies to power plants,) it wouldn’t have bothered doing the work on the rule to replace the CPP.
Additionally, an environmentalist told Reeves that if the EPA were considering going after the full endangerment finding, the time to do so would have been in its recent rollback of vehicle GHG standards.
What we see here, then, is evidence that deniers who still think overturning the endangerment finding is both feasible and desirable are not only out of touch with the science, but also with the very free market forces they claim to defend.
It’s not about making sure utilities can provide the lowest-cost energy to consumers--utilities are fine with the Endangerment finding. It’s about defending the interests of fossil fuels:the special interest group that funds denial.
In the end, opening up the finding to comment wouldn’t be much more than a waste of everyone’s time. But remember, for deniers, just asking the question would be a win.
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