Prior to departing for Denmark, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson (an Obama appointee) announced an endangerment finding on greenhouse gases (See Breaking News, p. 8), which will give President Obama some talking points at the expense of the American taxpayers. The president and other U.S. politicians are talking tough and want concessions from China. Unfortunately, this largely symbolic act pales in comparison to what the Chinese have already accomplished regarding coal gasification and carbon capture.

In taking this action the Obama administration has drawn the American people into a fight that has mainly targeted coal-fired utilities. The GHG Endangerment Finding does not impose any rules or regulations nor does it have any immediate effect on anyone. It is, however, the first step toward regulating greenhouse gases from cars, trucks, businesses, factories, farms, etc.

In the past, the EPA has never made this type of stand-alone endangerment finding, but has simply included it along with any regulation that deals with a new pollutant for the first time, according to Jeff Holmstead, former EPA Air Administrator and now head of the Bracewell & Giuliani Environmental Strategies Group. “The hard part is still to come,” Holmstead said. “The EPA now has to figure out how it will regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act without undermining the fragile economic recovery.”

The big concern is that new construction will come to a standstill because of additional permitting and paperwork requirements, Holmstead explained. “If the agency’s eventual regulatory approach is mishandled, it could result in profound consequences for the economy with little environmental benefit to show for it,” Holmstead said. “Small businesses, non-profits—like schools and hospitals—and the poor and the elderly living on fixed incomes could be especially hurt.”

In addition to setting the stage for the second Copenhagen appearance, the GHG Endangerment Finding could also be viewed as the Obama administration using its political clout to push Congress into passing a cap-and-trade bill or some type of carbon tax. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he plans to introduce a resolution disapproving of the EPA’s decision.

Already, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (www.CEI.org) announced that it will file suit in federal court to overturn the endangerment finding on the grounds that the EPA has ignored major scientific issues, including those raised recently in the Climategate fraud scandal. CEI experts have said that a more potent Anti-Stimulus Package would be hard to imagine. (For a quick laugh, readers should check out the CEI video, “All the Former Vice President’s Men, ClimateGate” on YouTube.)

About a year ago I suggested that the coal industry should give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt until it revealed its true colors. It has and the mining industry knows firsthand where it stands. A year ago, I also suggested that raising the price of the energy artificially, either through a carbon tax or subsidizing renewable energy, during an economic downturn would not be a popular move. For the sake of the country’s economy, Congress now needs to pass legislation that would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Steve Fiscor, Coal Age Editor-In-Chief
sfiscor@mining-media.com