Last year the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling, when it declared that the Environmental Protection Agency had the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate carbon dioxide in order to curb global warming.
But the Bush Administration never showed inclination to do so.
Now, a decision by a branch of the EPA the public has probably never heard of may reverse those political decisions.
The EPA's Environmental Appeals Board has sided with the Sierra Club, which argued that the EPA should not permit a Utah power plant without first considering its carbon dioxide output.
The Sierra Club sees the decision as being a definitive statement, that now "all new and proposed coal plants nationwide must go back and address their carbon dioxide emissions." Whether or not that's true, the EPA's decision does fly in the face of Bush Administration policy, and could give President-elect Obama another avenue for regulating greenhouse gas emissions through the executive branch.
The EAB rejected every Bush Administration excuse for failing to regulate the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States" said Joanne Spalding, Sierra Club Senior Attorney who argued the case. "This decision gives the Obama Administration a clean slate to begin building our clean energy economy for the 21st century.
Time magazine seems to agree in its analysis: Until the EPA defines regulatory limits on carbon dioxide, and defines which technology should be used to control emissions, "all other coal plants in the permitting process, or stuck in the courts, will be frozen."
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