Hurricane Irene Sharpens Focus on EPA's Coal-Fired Power Regulation Part Two

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Continued from Part One.

Manufacturers have been saying for months that compliance-based mandates from the EPA will hamper economic growth efforts.

According to the WSJ piece, EPA rules to be released later this year will mandate mercury-and-other-pollutant-reducing systems to be in place by 2015 (three years after the ruling), which some energy companies say is literally impossible. Duke Energy told the EPA that its average lead-time for retrofitting scrubbers systems that filter the pollutants — was 52 months, including the design, purchase and installation of equipment; for Southern Co., it was 54 months.

Jennifer Diggins, director of public affairs at Nucor, told MetalMiner that the business community is planning for a lot of uncertainty, and echoed the sentiment that major decisions are seen as being put off mainly for political purposes (the EPA’s ozone standards, for example, are not set to be reviewed again until 2013, after the next election, Diggins said). Furthermore, if the EPA had its way with establishing “attainment vs. “non-attainment zones that determine pollution by community, the agency could shut down certain construction and infrastructure projects if their pollution emissions break particular thresholds.

The point of the Journal piece was that President Obama could ultimately overrule EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s rule-making due to a 1990 proviso in the Clean Air Act. If he does that, it may make manufacturers happy in the short run and possibly spur employment growth; but in the longer run, it could partly be seen as putting off the necessary steps to transition away from burning fossil fuels for our energy needs. Even still, it seems political suicide to forsake support of one industry for another, especially if the older one (coal power) is established and the operational infrastructure/proper capacity for the new one (Ëœalternative’ power) barely exists yet.

How long can we kick a can down the road? And what should the EPA’s ideal role be with regard to manufacturing? Leave a comment!

–Taras Berezowsky

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