We haven’t gotten much good news out of the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years, but suddenly the news is huge... so big that it deserves an exclamation mark. Bear with me as I wend my way towards the punch line.
President Obama and the new folks he's put in charge at EPA are now reconsidering a Bush-era decision to let a monster coal-fired power plant operate without controlling its prodigious C02 emissions. The proposed plant, called Desert Rock, would pour air pollutants over Navajo communities in New Mexico, and 12.7 milllion tons of C02 into the atmosphere each year. C02 is the world’s biggest contributor to global warming.
The EPA, under Bush, said that's OK.
It’s not OK under Obama.
The new president and his new EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, are in the process of reevaluating the Desert Rock air permit.- a permit issued under the Bush EPA chief, Stephen Johnson. Johnson's the guy who issued an infamous memo just before Obama took office, ordering the EPA to ignore C02 emissions (not just at Desert Rock, but in all of its work).
Ignore the planet's most threatening pollutant? Stupefying.
What makes Johnson's action especially hard to swallow is that he repudiated the good advice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In a case known as Massachusetts v. EPA, the court ruled that the EPA had the right to regulate C02 as a pollutant. The door was open for Johnson to do the right thing, but he kicked it shut and ignored the court.
But, then again, we're talking about an administration that long questioned the fact of global warming, denied man's role in causing it, and for that matter, didn't think much of science either.
This years-long pattern came to a head in the last weeks of Bush when he feverishly rushed through the so-called "Midnight Regulations." Some of them, like the Johnson memo, diluted or outright eliminated environmental protections. In a word, they amounted to a payoff of all those industry folks who were the real constituency Bush served in his presidency.
And now, the punch line: The end may be near.
Every signal from the Obama presidency suggests that those end-of-reign regulations are being scrutinized with an eye towards dismissal. And the Johnson memo seems high on the list, or low depending on your perspective.
The best news of the moment is that Jackson is seeking comment from the public – that's you and me – on what EPA should do about regulating C02 emissions at Desert Rock. We've had the chance to comment before, but this is the first time in years that the EPA seems willing to actually listen. And, reading between the lines, Jackson is probably wanting to know what we think about Johnson's memo.
Lets tell her.
If you go to the Earthjustice website here, you will find guidelines for commenting on the Desert Rock air permit. It's pretty easy and won’t take too much time. While you are at it, toss in a line about the Johnson memo – as in, get rid of it. We need to start regulating C02 emissions throughout the United States and that memo stands in the way.
You have until Feb. 23. Tell a friend – all your friends – to join with you.