Thursday, June 28, 2012

Case against coal heats up—again

Written by  Luther S. Miller, Senior Consulting Editor

A ruling by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has cast new doubt on the future of coal as a source of electricity it for Americans—and a major revenue provider for American railroads.

The ruling upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The court dismissed four separate lawsuits led by several states , the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and fossil-fuel interests, among others.

Responding to claims that the EPA relied on unproved scientific findings, the court said that "EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment: It sought out and reviewed existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted. This is how science works."

The impact that ruling could have on coal was underscored in a Wall Street Journal report noting that EPA rules "may be expected to make the building of new coal-burning plants by utilities increasingly unlikely."

The report noted that while two major utilities are planning plants to produce combustible gas from coal, their cost could be prohibitive.

The case for and against coal has muddied political waters for years. Railway Age reported in its June 2006 issue (p. 6) President George W. Bush had decided early in his administration that emissions from the burning of coal were not dangerous, reversing the position he held as a presidential candidate, when he chided his opponent (and aggressive environmentalist) Al Gore fore being willing to settle for voluntary controls.