U.S. Law Swinging for Carbon Controls

Just over one year ago Carbon-Nation pondered the continued construction of conventional coal-fired power plants in the U.S. despite the availability of cleaner gasification-based technology. In Why EPA is not Mandating Cleaner Coal I laid out the legal case for EPA to mandate the use of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle technology — something the Bush Administration has refused to do:

As the Clean Air Act stipulates that new power plants must be built using the best pollution control technology available, new coal plants dirtier than IGCCs should thus be technology-non-grata.

At the time I posited that the then-recent U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant under U.S. law might help to turn the tide. That appears to be happening. Late last month a judge in Georgia overturned a permit for a planned coal-fired power plant, linking the Supreme Court ruling and the existing Clean Air Act requirement for best available technology.

Here’s how the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a Washington-based think tank, presented the decision in “Georgia Court Rejects Proposed Coal-Fired Plant Over GHG Emissions Concerns” :

On June 30, 2008, Judge Moore of Georgia’s Fulton County Superior Court revoked a permit for construction of a proposed 1200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the state. Ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Moore found that the permit filed by Longleaf Energy and approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division failed to consider the best available pollution control technology (BACT) to mitigate harm caused by the proposed plant’s estimated annual emissions of 8-9 million tons of CO2. The defense had argued that a BACT analysis was unnecessary because CO2 is not a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA). In rejecting the defense’s argument, Judge Moore cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s April, 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Court found that CO2 does qualify as a harmful pollutant that the United States Environmental Protection Agency must consider regulating under the CAA.

The company behind the project, Longleaf Energy Associates, plans to appeal.

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