Struggling for Air: Power Plants and the

Struggling for Air: Power Plants and the "War on Coal"

by Richard Revesz, Jack Lienke

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Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, conservative politicians have railed against the President's "War on Coal." As evidence of this supposed siege, they point to a series of rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that aim to slash air pollution from the nation's power sector . Because coal produces far more pollution than any other major energy source, these rules are expected to further reduce its already shrinking share of the electricity market in favor of cleaner options like natural gas and solar power. But the EPA's policies are hardly the "unprecedented regulatory assault " that opponents make them out to be. Instead, they are merely the latest chapter in a multi-decade struggle to overcome a tragic flaw in our nation's most important environmental law.

In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, which had the remarkably ambitious goal of eliminating essentially all air pollution that posed a threat to public health or welfare. But there was a problem: for some of the most common pollutants, Congress empowered the EPA to set emission limits only for newly constructed industrial facilities, most notably power plants. Existing plants, by contrast, would be largely exempt from direct federal regulation-a regulatory practice known as "grandfathering." What lawmakers didn't anticipate was that imposing costly requirements on new plants while giving existing ones a pass would simply encourage those old plants to stay in business much longer than originally planned. Since 1970, the core problems of U.S. environmental policy have flowed inexorably from the smokestacks of these coal-fired clunkers, which continue to pollute at far higher rates than their younger peers.

In Struggling for Air, Richard L. Revesz and Jack Lienke chronicle the political compromises that gave rise to grandfathering, its deadly consequences, and the repeated attempts-by presidential administrations of both parties-to make things right.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190233112
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 01/11/2016
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Richard L. Revesz is one of the nation's leading voices in the fields of environmental and regulatory law and policy. He is Lawrence King Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York University School of Law, where he directs the Institute for Policy Integrity.

Jack Lienke is a Senior Attorney at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, where his work focuses on climate change policy and other forms of environmental regulation.

Table of Contents

Preface: Conflict and Context

I. Coal: A Primer

II. War Stories
Rise of the Rhetoric
Peeling Back the Propaganda

III. Congress Misses the Mark
Fly in the Ointment
Explaining the Error
What the Transcripts Tell Us
Unexpected Deals, Unexpected Devils
Missing the Mark

IV. Misadventures in Modification
Altered States
Spared Change
What Goes Up . . . Might Not Count
Old Plants, New Tricks
A Fishy "Fix"
A New Sheriff in Town
A Safer Harbor
Considering the Alternatives

V. Bad Neighbors
Tall Orders, Taller Stacks
There Goes the Neighborhood
Who Will Stop the Rain?
To Market, To Market
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Grandfathering's Grim Toll

VI. A Warming World
The Carbon Loophole: A History
Between a Cap and a Hard Place
Let's Make a Deal
What's Grandfathering Got to Do with It?

VII. Hope for Redemption
The Dash to Gas
The Role of Regulation
Bumps in the Road Ahead

Conclusion: A Farewell to Harms

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