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Coal-fired Congress Blocks Path to Clean Energy

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U.S. leadership on global warming threatened by compromise in Congress
A coal-fired power plant.

Becoming a grandfather is cause for celebration, unless you're a coal-fired power plant.

Coal plants that predate the Clean Air Act have become the mules of air pollution—set in their ways and not liable to change. Exploiting their "grandfathered" status, these coal plants have refused to implement technologies that are currently available to reduce pollution.

Now, Congress seems determined to let these dinosaurs off the hook all over again.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency's recent Clean Air Act endangerment finding prescribes a strong antidote to global warming pollution—a fact President Obama will surely highlight tomorrow on the final day of climate negotiations in Copenhagen—a political compromise over coal plants threatens to bind EPA's hands just as it begins to act.

The endangerment finding, based on overwhelming scientific evidence, says that global warming pollutants like carbon dioxide threaten human health and welfare. As a result, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to reduce global warming pollution from a wide range of sources, including cars, factories, and perhaps most importantly, coal-fired power plants.

Coal-fired power plants account for more than a third of U.S. global warming pollution, and as MIT researchers recently concluded, any credible solution to global warming must address emissions from these existing facilities. Period. The Clean Air Act is a powerful tool to do so, and it has in the past successfully reduced harmful pollutants.

But some legislators, feeling the heat from industry (not the planet), struck a deal as part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act—a cap-and-trade bill narrowly passed in June 2009 by the House of Representatives—that restricts EPA's regulatory power under the existing Clean Air Act. If adopted in a final law, the deal would make grandfathers of the 600-plus existing coal plants in the United States, allowing them to take a pass on new technology that would reduce global warming pollution.

It's imperative that this doesn't happen, and we're working hard to ensure a Senate bill leaves the Clean Air Act intact. To those tempted to believe that new authorities Congress is considering in global warming legislation are in some way incompatible with tools currently provided by the Clean Air Act, nothing could be further from the truth.

A cap on global warming pollution and the Clean Air Act work in complementary fashion. The cap sets an economy-wide limit on global warming pollution that decreases over time. Meanwhile, we need to constantly improve fuel efficiency standards for cars and use the Clean Air Act to zero in on other large sources of pollution like coal-fired power plants to ensure they also rapidly reduce emissions.

In other words: The cap is the floodlight. The Clean Air Act is the laser pointer.

Without the Clean Air Act emissions standards, a cap has too much risk of leaking. Dirty coal plants will continue to operate and pollute unchallenged for 15 years or more, stifling the growth of a clean energy economy and jeopardizing the possibility of achieving mid-term and long-term targets for reducing pollution.

And let's not forget that we made this mistake in the past, with troubling consequences. Before the Clean Air Act passed in 1970, legislators struck a deal with industry in which existing coal plants were "grandfathered" under the new law, meaning the facilities were not required to adopt modern controls to cut down on air pollution. The logic was that the antiquated plants—called "clunkers" by some—would soon close their doors and cap their smokestacks for good.

But logic failed. The loophole actually encouraged coal plant operators to extend the life of old, dirty plants, many of which are still operating today.

We don't have time to make this mistake again, and we shouldn't give coal plants a perverse incentive to continue polluting at the expense of clean energy, our health and the planet. It's time to move towards a clean energy future, and like it or not, coal-fired grandfathers just aren't a part of it.

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US still has a lot of work to do in the issue of global warming. It should start with switching to alternative sources of energy, which are low cost, and environmental friendly, like wind power, for example. Many European countries have started to use it and the results are excellent.

I absolutely will not vote for anyone who votes against legislation which will help stop or curb emissions. I'm an independent voter and it's time we listened to the scientists and pay attention to data. Ask who these congressmen and women get their campaign contributions from and who they are beholden to.

I'm also a Christian who considers this earth a gift from God to us. It is absolutely appalling to me that so many who consider themselves Christians will not think twice about polluting as they continue to fight any reversal or restriction of their "right" to operate their businesses for profits at the earths expense. Maybe that comment doesn't belong here, but if you examine your personal beliefs and see that your business operations don't match them, maybe it's time you should do something about it.

I agree completely we need to get organized on this matter and let these civil servants know that their job depends upon their actions. If they don't do what we elected them to do we need to fire them. I long for the day when we can boast a coalition strong enough to influence things like this.

We humans have the capacity to create Paradise on Earth, but our greed and ignorance seem to overide Reality. Whether we are talking Health Care, Pollution, War - anything where big money is concerned, the mega-corporations roll out the same worn out propaganda and people who know nothing about the subject are soon yelling "Socialism!" "Marxism!" "Taxes!" to anyone who opposes the mega-corporations, even though they know nothing about economics, socialism or Marxism. These people are trained to ignore science and even observable evidence and only accept what comes out of the mouths of the right wing zealots who are regularly caught either lying or wrong.
I think their followers become more rabid when the propagandists are caught lying or completely ignoring reality because they don't want to believe they've been used as dupes empowering those who are ripping them off. So they cling ferociously to even the wildest hair-brained lies because if they don't they are afraid they will have to admit they might have been wrong.
Hopefully, something or sombody will wake them up before their kids are born with respitory problems or develop higher and higher rates of cancer because they will have only themselves to blame.

"So they cling ferociously to even the wildest hair-brained lies because if they don't they are afraid they will have to admit they might have been wrong. Hopefully, something or sombody will wake them up before their kids are born with respitory problems or develop higher and higher rates of cancer because they will have only themselves to blame."
It is not the people who stop the progress of changes to correct the damage done to the is the 'elected officials' and 'government employees' who perhaps are on the take or at least they receive instant gratification of 'bringing business to the area'...they are the ones disobeying the existing laws and making 'arrangements' with those who want to make a dollar at the expense of the population.
Unless these governmental employees are discharged from their obligations and stopped from making 'secret' arragements and carrying them on behind closed doors not allowing the citizens to participate in the deliberation of the desicions made but impose their power and intimidate the press not to publish the cries to stop the pollution...we are screaming to the wind.
It is not the people (taxpayers) it is the 'hired help' who enrich themselves at the expense of ruining our world!
Documented proof of the years of pollution and loss of personal funds at a time of recession to stop the damage that is done 'daily' to our resources!
Good Luck! Take them out!

Personally, I find it hard to deny the negative effects of coal-fired power plants. By contributing 1/3 of the total CO2 output, plus sulphur dioxide and huge amounts of carbon monoxide, and particulates; they are a blight on the planet and a major cause of acid rain.

We have the technology, and green power production capacity to replace these dinosaurs over time, or at the very least conserve more and rapidly deploy new clean technology while they are phased out. Change will not come cheap, but not changing rapidly will be enormously expensive.

Already, the Aspens are dying in Colorado, the Oaks in California, and the Pines around the Midwest. Changes to the polar ice caps are undeniable.

We need to accept the Endangerment Finding and lead the change...there is simply too much at stake now.
Bravo Earthjustice for highlighting this issue.

I really don't know why they are threatening to not pass this bill. It's mainly the Republican party that has this problem with it. I am 100% FOR this bill to be passed. Obviously the Republicans do not want a change. Obama wants change. He promised it. He's going to do it. There is more CO2 in the air than there is for Oxygen. Because we keep tearing down trees and not growing new ones. Proves the human race neglects their own planet. What Obama is doing will help this world for sure. It also shows the Republican's negligance and how they don't care about the world or their country. I support the Democrats.

If CO2 is food for plants then why isn't Mars overgrown with plants? Mars consists of 96% of CO2.
You know what else consists mainly of CO2? Rocks, graphite, diamonds and the gasform known to us all. Mars is to us mere rocks. What a striking coincidence.

The equation may be of more importance than its ingredients.

Any acceleration in becoming like Mars may be postponing the inevitable but no less worthwhile.

I live in the EU.
Last week a bill was passed that allowed US government acces to my bankaccount, this besides many other regulations that invaded personal privacy in name of battling terrorism. This decision was taken without any citizen aware of it. No matter what we as citizens said or voted against, it still gets pushed through...

What makes you think we need a global government to own us all or that it's not already here?
The world is too big to govern gloally and never has an empire with unwilling enforcements stood for long.

I'm for an international environmental court, a tribunal if you will because when nothing gets done and major polluters can continue to do so, mass extinction, mass deaths, mass destruction will come from their hands. And what will they say then? "Ich habe das nicht gewusst?" "Only doing my job".


The War on Terrorism, like the War on Drugs & the Global Warming Scam are all control Agendas to foster fear & compliance en masse. Pollution & the plundering of Earth's resources along with total disregard for human, plant & animal life is real. Egomaniacal pursuits to dominate all Life is around us as we see in the Emerging New World Order...which is already here. Perhaps the NWO realizes that it cannot pursue its agenda without some serious ammending actions. The best way to do this, as with all government policy, is to shift the money around making it appear that positive substantive change is occuring, while nothing actually changes.

If the power structures get the "sheeple" to believe that the world is coming to an end and will burn up into a ball of fire in the Global Warming scam which is a naturally occuring cosmic event, then they have the approval to tax us to death on every movement, the water we drink and the air we breath, etc...via the insidious freedom usurping Cap & Trade.

Big Coal is a problem. EPA, like the FDA the WHO, etc are complicit in preventing necessary environmental recuperation, let alone the sick human population due to environmental toxicities that plague us in the air, food, water and soil. The Coal Industry, et al, like a drug addict on a long binge, needs to get off their Crack habit and go into Rehab. Their destructive bent has caused hazards around us and it is due time that lowered consciousness is succeeded by peaceful life affirming world visionaries & where alternative resources can be brought to market aiding job recovery and new innovations for a more sustainable future for all Life.


You reliance on the MIT Scientists might prove to be your flawed, but not against this nutjob, argument on the AGW (not climate change which is a definition or truism so can't be denied) controversy. This is just one of many reports concerning the few DATA sources for the gross approximations that is supposed to be "settled science" of what you miss to see because of the mob mentality concerning anything non-Politically-Correct - meaning anything that the mob currently does not agree with. You are being manipulated by their lack of fortitude to ask questions.

"...If similar procedures have been used for processing climate data from other national data sources, the impact on the rate of change in global temperature would be considerable.

The IEA report concludes that it is necessary to recalculate all global temperature data in order to assess the real rate of temperature change during the last century. Global temperature data will have to be modified because the calculations used by Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change analysts are based on HadCRUT research."

My suggestion is to read this as a summary of the controversy:

Take a course in basic English composition.

We do not need to sign an International treaty to make this happen. All we need is the Senate. The House has already passed a bill that would deal with global warming. If we sign an International treaty we will sign away our sovereignty to an International body.

You could not be any more "wrong" in your retarded opinion. If the whole world is not supporting this REALITY, then one country (yes even the USA) cannot correct it alone. You must be Republican.........think you and the country are both infallible.

I am not a Republican, but I am an American.

We don't think we are infallible. We just look at the historical record of having a fallible but single government for some 230 years and counting...the longest running constitutional democratically based government ( we are republic).

We have reluctantly given more lives on other shores than any other country in the history of the world to support these types of governments. The outcomes have not always been best case since we have been required to pull out and subsequently millions died as the rest of the world turns its collective back.

We do not want the position we find ourselves but where is the world. Solve any of Africa's many countries' stability or any of those on the European landscape before inserting your leg up our back side.

Overall I feel we have had a much more positive impact upon Earth than we are given credit for in today's finger pointing atmosphere based on political science.

BTW, "Climate Change" (like saying cold ice, or hot fire. The controversy is AGW (anthrpogenic(?) global warming) man-caused global warming and its solutions.

We degrade here. Let's stay out of the political mud slinging. I call myself an independent and I think we all agree something has to be done. I don't care if you think global warming is a scam or not. If you care about your country, your planet or your kids- why would you allow the obvious problems of pollution to continue without doing something about it. Right now the government seems to have most of the cards. We are allowing them to control this situation. But we are Americans. Why don't you start writing (or emailing) some letters to these congressmen and tell them "this has to stop!" something has to be done about these problems. Remind them that we voted them in and that WE run this country and not the damn big corporations. We all need to stick together on this one.

This is a very uninformed comment. All the countries need to support efforts to reduce global warming. No nation has absolute sovereignty in the first place. The US has signed many binding international treaties with no threat to sovereignty. We made the mistake of passing on the Kyoto protocol which would have helped us reduce our enormous contributions to the problem. Let's not make the same mistake.


A take action e-mail on this would be great! I would like to contact my Senators Boxer and Fienstein about this. Also, Waxman is in my area--not sure what happened on his committee and why this was allowed to go down the way it did in the house.

C02 is food for plants which turn it into the air. There is no evidence to support the fact that more C02 produces warming. The earth has been cooling for 10 years as C02 levels have increased. Only computer models create the myth that C02 is harmful. If C02 increase is harmful how many units of C02 will cause 1 degree of temperature change? No one will answer that question because the idea that C02 causes any warming is fiction. Do a web search on that question and see what you come up with. Finally the only source of global warming or cooling is the sun. Any solution presented does not reduce any C02 levels other than to transfer wealth to the very rich.

I would certainly hate to expose my ignorance publically like you are doing. Anyone as retarded and determined to make a fool of themself as you, should not even have a computer. Sit steady in the boat......the guys in the white coats are coming to pick you up and take you to the nearest mental hospital and lock you up!!

Get your head out of the sand, stupid. To say more is a waste of time... Too ignorant to understand IMHO.

Entirely right, The convention is about enabling The New World Order, taxation going to them. This and the Health Care Plan will be the end of the USA. In the Health care plan people will be given the chip, tracking device....starting with the elderly, infirm, poor, children etc. One can imagine the dire consequences..It is not our government, but the FED Reserve is!

You two must be related... Now stop playing in the sandbox.

It is important that we note the restrictions and improvements that must be made to the coal industry. However, it is also imperative that everyone understands that the processing of coal takes enormous amounts of fresh water that would better be used for safe drinking. All chemicals should be 'banned' from water, as it is necessary sustenance for all life.

Since the 'clean air technologies' have been hidden since the 1960s, let us also note that people are in need of jobs. Opening up the technological opportunities and general labor required to create these models are a necessity. It would improve the quality of air as well as the quality of living standards, which are beginning to suffer in the U.S..

We need to reduce emissions; however, the Climate Change that is now taking place IS an all natural event. We 'are' at the ending of a 26,000 year cycle. The Axis of the Earth 'has tilted,' which the scientists and governments have 'not told people' but is obvious by the exceptionally enormous Sun that is currently visible in the Northern States.

Folks must keep in mind, that during this time of change it is 'not' going to assist the planet to pass a treaty, which will put many people below poverty level. There is 'not' a treaty, or a tax that can reverse this situation. I can only hope this is understood, and that people realize that a greenhouse affect is 90% cloud vapor and water. The other 10% being Co2, hydrogen, helium, nitrogen and O2, with the quantity of Co2 @ a mere 0.038%, which is a little over 1/3 of 1%. This amount is very, very minute and is necessary to sustain the life of trees and plants, in order that they can produce the O2 that we breath. In other words...oxygen.

I understand that many terms and conditions are also within this treaty for global governance. I choose not to be taxed for the air I breath. I was born on this planet with the divine right to exist on it, without having to pay for something that is in more than abundant quantity, and is not 'owned by governments or special interests.' Who do they 'think' they are to do such a thing? I have not seen signatures from the Divine Creator turning the Earth and Universe over to them to own and tax.

I do, however, reject and condemn the continuous spraying of the atmosphere with chemicals such as Barium, magnesium, copper, aluminum crystals and sulfur dioxide in such massive quantities, that they're choking the life out of this planet; not to mention the millions of metric tons of 'fuel emissions' from the jets spreading it around. At the cost of 'killing off' what is left in the oceans, and by suffocating all life with chemicals, I choose to promote a sustainable future 'without geo-engineering' the Earth. This was a very horrendous decision, and one that REQUIRES immediate reversal. I also reject and condemn the use of HAARP as weather and electronic control, for weather and all else. These experiments, which have been taken over by the military using secretiveness and procedures not approved of by the American people, and can only harm the Ionosphere surrounding this planet, as well as the natural electromagnetic energy that makes mother Earth what she is. We are 'not' the divine intervention...but we have been part of the bleak circumstances we see, and it needs to stop.

There are too many issues to contend with at Copenhagen without losing the freedom that our independence has brought us, and fought for by our servicemen. We do not need global governance and tax demands, which will make us 'slaves' to a cause...we need the freedom to make decisions and carry them out amongst ourselves, setting a 'time stamp' for urgency. This will force the technology out of hiding, and out of the hands of massive corporate interest and the oil barrons, creating smaller groups of companies, with the new blood for creating a sustainable future.

In the name of all life and our earth mother and most of all our creator of all things everywhere. All these coal plants need to become compliant or shut down. I would prefer shutting them all down because life is more important than corporate profits and that is what it is about. The corporations bribe, with big money to be overlooked. Like our entire government has run for many years. Even though the people are behind the green issue and the sequestered technologies being held back from being developed from main stream society. While the profiteers are rolling in the dough. They could care less about people/sheeple. The slaves of society anyone who is not in the 1 percent elite they could care less about. Anyone who complains they would rather not ever hear from them again. It is time to close them down. Put them out of office and get a real government by the people for the people of the people and not a bunch of bought off idiots like we have seen for years. Who could care less about there constituents because of the earmarks as they say which we all know what is going on is pure illegal bribery. If they cannot live by their Oaths of office it is time to replace them with a constitutional peopled gov. without the corruption that is now so noticeable. They tell you one thing and do the opposite thanks to the well known crime families running the us gov. since Roosevelt. I don't care what you watch on tv because all the stations are owned by the corporations look at all the advertising that sponser whatever you watch and tell me it isn't true. It you are honest you already know this. Bought and paid for by these perpetraters that continue to do so. But there time is running out and they know it. That is why there is so much more corruption being exposed.

@Carol You should rather be embarrassed by your poor spelling and grammar, your ignorance, and your general lack of mental acuity.

@ Anonymous on December 17, 2009 - 1:34pm

You don't seem any too bright yourself; you've identified neither the cause of our problems nor the solution. Even your list of deportees is foolish.

What we need is a major change in the distribution of power. Unfortunately, we blew things badly by allowing George W. Bush to become President -- he put Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court, assuring the continued power of the corporations for decades.

Barry the First has made no bones about being as deep in the pocket of "Clean Coal" as Droopy Liberman is in the pocket of The Evil Empire.
The one saving factor for me is that Mother Earth will be a lot better without we human parasites around.

That "congress" is filled with those beholden to the Chamber of Commerce and agribusiness is nothing new. The founders intended it so, to keep us commoners, whom they feared and despised, from having any significant say in what policies and laws are implemented. The Senate, able to block any and all legislation, is the most undemocratic institution ever conceived, apportioning membership by state boundaries rather than by population -- 84 percent of the people get 50 senators, the remaining 16 percent also get 50 senators -- and then itself adopting minority rule through the process of cloture. Not to mention that many holding office are indeed stupid, and the Wyoming Triplets top the list, with Christofascist, anti women's rights gusto.

Anything that BO goes to he is embarrasing so far as I am concerned he should stay home and that is a fact.

Oh so staying home and doing nothing is better. You must be a FOX watcher! At least President Obama tries whereas Bush just made being President an embarrassment!

Thank you for your comment. He is at least trying (meaning Obama) is correct. If everyone else in the world thinks global warming is a fact, why do we Americans say, "it isn't so!" We are should acknowledge that fact and hope that this will get us to do better and become a leader in the global warming solution. Americans and others have been talking about this since the 70's - with not much accomplished. Talking has not done much, we need action to stop this global warming.

"Coal-fired power plants account for more than a third of U.S. global warming pollution"? This is both shocking and encouraging. It is encouraging because it gives us a single target that we can focus on to bring down CO2 immissions by a third. We must make bringing down coal our number one priority. It sounds like we are better off not passing the ACES act at all than passing one that actually weakens the ability of the EPA to crack down on such a significant amount of CO2. The good news is that, from what I last heard, the Senate removed this provision from its version of the act.

cut back or eliminate the use of coal and other fossil fuels to power our grid, then we reduce that massive amount of carbon dioxide released by power plants burning those dirty fuels. Reducing fossil fuel consumption to make electricity also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and a host of other toxic elements that poison our environment and water supply. Another huge benefit to not burning coal is that we can stop decapitating our mountains. I believe this practice to be a heinous act against nature and a scourge to people currently living in those areas and to future generations. Also, we can worry less about all the toxic materials stored in huge retention ponds with earthen dams that have failed many times, releasing the toxic materials into the local environment and water supply.

Let's also remember that a huge contributor of greenhouse gases is the factory farming industry, an "inconvenient truth" that most people just keep sweeping under the carpet.

I think people in Congress seriously do not think.

We need to stop the coal fired plants from belching their smoke and polluting the air. The EPA should be able to regulate these plants under The Clean Air Act. Congress should allow them to be closed NOW.The American Clean Air Act should be used to close these plants to protect our health and enviorment and I urge congress not to tie the EPA's hands.

The US congress is comprised of idiots. `Whether it be energy or cap and trade or national healthcare--they are idiots. We should put Obama, Reid and Pelosi in a rowboat and drop them at the Artic circle. All idiots

You named the wrong people as being the "idiots" in Congress. Nancy Pelosi has been very strong on supporting action to stop global warming. The real idiots are all the Republicans that are in denial and say "no" to every good measure to protect the planet if it is proposed by a Democrat.

The US congress is comprised of idiots. `Whether it be energy or cap and trade or national healthcare--they are idiots. We should put Obama, Reid and Pelosi in a rowboat and drop them at the Artic circle. All idiots

We live near a coal ash plant and when we moved there in January of this year, I didn't realize that this plant was so close to us. As a result of this plant being close to our home, I feel I cannnot and must not have a garden (that is one of the reasons we wanted to move into this area (it is basically out in the country where we could have a garden and grow most of our own food) but now that we know this plant is nearby we can't have a garden and this bill is very important to me because of this. I want to see them get rid of the coal ash plants--not just near where we live but everywhere. Please, for the sake of human beings on this earth, our grandchildren and great grandchildren and all the animals that are being affected by the climate change as a result of these coal ash plants, we need to work to turn this climate change around for the sake of all our futures.
Anonymous in PA

We need a list of the NHpeople engaged in this game

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