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When Playing to the Crowd Prevents Progress



May 22, 2018 - It’s easy to get confused by the news these days. On a daily basis we see green rhetoric eclipsing the stated purpose of environmental crowd.

Take New York’s Gov. Cuomo, for example. Even as he is greening-up his creds for a potential presidential run with commitments around reducing New York’s carbon emissions, he is cheering on the closure of New York’s zero-carbon-emissions-producing nuclear-powered Indian Point Energy Center.

And when members of Congress look to reform the New Source Review (NSR) program, which would help coal-fired power plants make emissions-reducing upgrades, environmental groups go on the warpath.


A bit of background is in order. NSR is a Clean Air Act program that requires industrial facilities to install modern pollution control equipment when they are built or when making a change that increases emissions significantly. Its purpose, according to EPA, is to “protect public health and the environment, even as new industrial facilities are built and existing facilities expand.” While the language sounds good, implementation of the program has not been.

For a better understanding of the challenges with NSR, let’s turn to Clean Air Act expert Jeffrey Holmstead, who has more than 30 years of expertise under his belt, including time served at the helm of the EPA office that implements the Clean Air Act. During testimony last week at a House Subcommittee on Environment Hearing on NSR, he summed it up this way:

“The NSR program has become a complicated mess that makes it more difficult for companies to do things that we should all want them to do – like maintaining the reliability and safety of their facilities and making them more efficient. In some parts of the country, it effectively bans the construction of new facilities even if they use state-of-the-art pollution controls and would not have a meaningful impact on the environment – and even if the communities where they would be located desperately want them to be built.”


So while Holmstead and others discussed how to improve the current program, NGOs were busy pushing out news complaining about coal-fired power plants that have yet to be upgraded – while simultaneously arguing against NSR reform that would make those upgrades possible. Huh?

The simple truth is that these environmental groups don’t want NSR reform because they don’t want coal-fired plants to reduce emissions or become more efficient. High efficiency low emissions technologies are available now that, if implemented globally, would effectively eliminate the equivalent of India's annual CO2 emissions from the global total.

But green groups that are in the midst of a fundraising Trump bump aren’t likely to continue scaring up record-breaking donations by applauding steps in the right direction, or encouraging the utilization of the latest technologies to reduce emissions. It wouldn’t play well with the base.

NSR reform is an important step in encouraging upgrades to our existing fleet. The right reforms can increase efficiency while reducing emissions, all while safeguarding low cost electricity for all Americans. It’s a win for all. Unless you’re a fundraiser for the keep-it-in-the-ground crowd. - Your Foremost Source for Coal News