HuffPo contributor Bruce Niles warns that [in its current form] ACES (The American Clean Energy and Security Act) is a disaster in the making. As the current version is written, this policy further threatens life on the planet as we know it, not to mention that it “threatens to block the way for the U.S. to transition rapidly to a clean energy economy.”
The bill exempts a slug of plants permitted but not yet built, plus the huge fleet of America’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, from any requirement to clean up and cut their CO2 emissions.This is a disaster in the making, because it threatens to block the way for the U.S. to transition rapidly to a clean energy economy. These old dirty coal plants need to clean up or be retired.
But the way the bill works right now, instead of encouraging investment in new industries and new plants that are subject to stringent standards, it leaves the door open to expand the old plants with no added safeguards. By “grandfathering” existing coal-fired capacity, which accounts for 44 percent of U.S. electricity generation, the bill repeats the mistakes of the 1977 Clean Air Act — mistakes that we have been paying for in the form deadly air pollution ever since.
Three decades ago, Congress exempted older plants from soot and smog limits that applied to new units, on the assumption and promise by the industry that they would soon be retired. Instead, the industry took full advantage of this loophole to refurbish old plants and, in some cases, to expand their capacity and emit even more of the air pollution that causes tens of thousands of asthma attacks, hospitalizations, heart attacks, and premature deaths every year.
The House has passed H.R.2454 and, after the August recess, the Senate will consider the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act. “Although coal-fired power plants account for roughly a third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (making them our single largest source of global warming pollution),” writes Bruce Niles, “the legislation gives them a free pass to continue business as usual — without making any serious reductions in heat-trapping CO2 for at least fifteen years, and bringing us increasingly closer to a climate crisis.”
As it currently stands, ACES has a huge loophole that would allow Big Coal “to vent billions of tons of pollution without consequence.” And, it is doubtful whether there is enough political power organized to insist that the Senate close the loophole.
Niles recommends that ACES should require “the oldest, dirtiest plants to be retired by a certain date or meet the same pollution standards as new plants.”
And, until they retire or clean up, existing plants must be prohibited from expanding their capacity and increasing carbon pollution. These measures would create an incentive for industry to use cleaner technologies instead of continuing to lean on the dirty dinosaurs that generate too much of our electricity today.
And, as this blog previously has noted, our Congress critters are further protecting the nation’s oldest and most dangerous coal plants by killing the Environmental Protection Agency‘s authority to regulate carbon emissions.
The stakes could not be greater. We cannot let Big Coal get away with another massive loophole to continue polluting at the same level as today for 1-2 more decades. Congress must close the coal loophole and make the coal industry slash its pollution.