Coal Plants Likely the First Targets of Climate-change Executive Orders

By:  Brian Koenig
Coal Plants Likely the First Targets of Climate-change Executive Orders

Coal-fired power plants are likely to be the first targets of President Obama's promised executive orders to enact climate-change regulations.

In a contentious effort to bypass the Republican-led House of Representatives, President Obama has embarked on a unilateral campaign to curb the impact of so-called climate change, in what could be a potentially fatal blow to the coal industry. The president’s new energy policy, and the forthcoming regulations that will accompany it, could in fact terminate all blueprints for new coal-fired plant facilities.

The president’s apparent desire to bankrupt the coal industry is part of a two-step process. According to James McGarry, a policy analyst at the environmental activist group the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the EPA “is probably going to set standards that any new power plant that's built in the U.S. has to achieve a certain carbon dioxide emissions rate per unit of energy produced."

Those likely standards, which will potentially be unveiled in the coming weeks, could stamp out all plans to build new coal-fired power plants. "That's huge, because just to look at the numbers, coal fired power plants emit around 2,200 pounds per megawatt hour where a new gas-fired, natural gas power plant is about 900 pounds per megawatt hour," McGarry notes. "So in order for any new coal to be built in the U.S. in 2013-2014, they would have to have some sort of carbon-capture technology, which at the moment is economically unrealistic."

In recent years, many Democrats in Congress have sought to increase regulations on coal plants and other conventional energy-production facilities. In 2009, House Democrats (who controlled the chamber at the time) passed a landmark climate change bill that was ultimately shot down in the Democratic-led Senate. And now with Republicans controlling the House, efforts to pass meaningful climate change legislation will be an even greater challenge.

President Obama is clearly adopting a new strategy — that is, to rule by executive order, circumventing Congress and bypassing the Constitution’s restraints on presidential power, as he has already done on a range of issues, including a brazenly unconstitutional power to detain and indefinitely imprison Americans who have not been charged with any crime.

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