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Report: EPA coal plant rule tainted by secretiveness, collusion with green groups

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants is tainted by secretiveness and collusion with environmental groups, according to a conservative environmental lawyer.

Energy and Environmental Law Institute attorney Chris Horner has presented an 81-page regulatory comment showing the EPA’s “New Source Performance Standard” (NSPS) — which limits carbon emissions from new coal plants — was developed by officials masking their true agendas, using secret and private email accounts and in collusion with environmental groups.

“Using EPA’s own records and admissions we establish that their war on coal and the U.S. economy is illegitimate as a legal matter,” Horner told the Daily Caller News Foundation.“First, emails beginning immediately after the first Obama inauguration reveal they improperly colluded with green pressure groups, from which most of these EPA officials came, and that the rule making was a farce, with the outcome predetermined,” Horner said. “The public never in fact had the ability to participate in the process after all.”

The EPA published its coal plant emissions limits earlier this year. The agency’s whole authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants rests on a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision which said the EPA could regulate greenhouse gases if they were harmful to human health.

The EPA made its “endangerment finding” in 2009, about ten months after Obama took office. But Horner argues that the finding was “predetermined” by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and made in collusion with environmental groups.

“[E]mails which we have obtained begin less than 3 weeks after President Obama’s inauguration and document that the new officials at the EPA had already made up their minds,” Horner wrote.

“By February 8, 2009, Administrator Jackson was planning on warning power plants that she was intent on regulating their CO2 emissions, and apparently denying a permit based on as yet unchanged regulations,” he wrote, adding that Jackson did not officially announce the endangerment finding until she was headed to the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009.

Horner also argues that the EPA’s coal plant rule is based on misleading information. The NSPS rule requires that new coal plants adopt carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which the EPA says is a commercially proven technology.

“Finally, we illustrate the lack of an expected climate impact of the rule, combined with the shared agenda to ‘bankrupt’ a politically deselected industry so that they ‘finally make (the political welfare case of windmills and solar) profitable’ — both admissions by President Obama — make the rules an unconstitutional deprivation of others’ due process rights and an abuse of the state’s police powers,” Horner said.

EPA officials have continually argued that CCS is an achievable standard, despite objections from the coal industry.

“I will say that on the basis of the information that we see and what is out in the market today and what is being contemplated today, that CCS technology is feasible,” McCarthy told Congress last September.

But emails obtained by Horner show that proponents of NSPS don’t believe that CCS is a viable option for the coal industry. Activists with the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign have been a major proponent of the EPA rule and have also expressed their real thoughts on CCS viability in emails with EPA officials.

One 2012 email from John Coequyt, head of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, to two EPA officials shows that the Sierra Club probably didn’t think that CCS was a good option for coal.

The email headline was “Coal to remain viable, says EPA’s McCarthy” and referred to McCarthy’s remarks on CCS. “Pants on fire,” Coequyt wrote to EPA officials.

The “Beyond Coal” campaign’s stated goal is to “prevent new coal plants from being built,” and to “Retire one-third of the nation’s more than 500 coal plants by 2020.”

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