Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Clean Air Act Not Killing Us: Industry

From what you read in the press these days, you'd think that impending court-mandated efforts by the Envrionmental Protection to limit pollution from power plants would be as appealing to industry as swallowing a broken light bulb.

But as a Wall Street Journal article earlier this week chronicles, many companies that will be effected by the upcomng rules are already getting ahead of the game and shifting away from dirty coal towards cheap natural gas and other lower-emission sources, or shuttering dirty plants.

The article says there is a "migration ocurring" and quotes some prominent industry players:

It's pretty clear that, whether it's caused by future carbon legislation or action by the EPA, the migration away from coal has begun," says Constellation Energy Group Chief Executive Mayo Shattuck.

The story points out that utilities are moving away from coal in part because the recession has given them "breathing room" to figure out alternative ways to meet future energy needs.

The Wall Street Journal article goes on to state:

The falling price of natural gas in the U.S., to about $4 per one million British thermal units, has helped gas capture an ever-increasing share of power generation. Hardly a week goes by without a company announcing changes that push coal to the sidelines, usually in favor of natural gas, renewables or nuclear plants.

That makes sense business sense, and it also makes sense because people believe that the EPA in particular is a highly credible agency doing a good job of protecting public health. My colleague Dovid Doniger says it well in a recent blog:

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the landmark Clean Air Act this year, a new poll shows that nearly three out of four Americans support protecting the EPA’s authority to take steps that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities and other major industrial polluters.  More than four out of five Americans think scientists and other experts at the EPA are the most qualified to make decisions about how best to safeguard the American public when dealing with greenhouse gas emissions and other major pollutants, compared to fewer than one in 10 who said Congress should make such decisions.  And more than seven in 10 agreed that:  “If Congress blocks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities and other major industrial polluters, it would send the wrong message to polluters, namely, that Congress isn't willing to hold polluters accountable.”

Perhaps some companies realize that the Clean Air Act hasn't killed their bottom line, even as it has saved tens of thousands of lives. Dave Hawkins, a 40-year veteran of EPA wars, puts in pretty succintly in a blog post yesterday:

As we see renewed claims from polluters that new EPA rules for the largest remaining pollution problems will cost jobs and raise energy prices, it is important to remember they said the same things about every rule EPA adopted in the past 40 years.  They were wrong every time.  Fortunately for all of us, past cleanup efforts went forward despite these claims.  Let’s highlight these facts as we work to bolster EPA and state efforts today and secure continued support from Congress for this remarkable law.