Coal Still in the Crosshairs

Two seemingly unrelated reports last week serve as a reminder that coal remains very much under siege. First, Earthjustice, on behalf of a number of environmental organizations, filed a petition with EPA under § 111 of the Clean Air Act requesting that EPA identify coal mines as an emissions source and, consequently, establish new source performance standards for coal mine emissions of methane and several other categories of pollutants. 

Second, as Daily Environment reported, the Army Corps of Engineers suspended use of Nationwide Permit 21 for the six states in the Appalachian region, covering Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The decision means that, at least for now, mountaintop removal mining operations in these states will have to apply for and obtain individual Clean Water Act permits, rather than relying on the Nationwide permit.

Other significant regulatory actions affecting the long-term economics of coal include EPA’s decision to tighten regulation of coal combustion residuals, whether through identification of CCR as a hazardous waste or through regulation under RCRA subtitle D – with the current betting being on listing of CCR as a hazardous waste, and EPA’s Tailoring Rule, which will focus initial regulation of GHG emissions on large stationary sources, the most obvious of which are large coal-fired power plants.

All of these actions are nominally independent, but if anyone thinks that at least the NGOs such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice don’t see these as related actions the cumulative goal of which is to end use of coal, they’re just not paying attention. Does Lisa Jackson feel the same way? I doubt she’ll ever tell us, but I think I know the answer.

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