Climate & Environmental Justice Groups React to New EPA Rules For Coal-Burning Power Plants - Climate Justice Alliance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 25, 2024
CONTACT: Brett Abrams | [email protected]

Calls for Rules to Be Extended to All Power Plants to Address Cumulative Impacts of Pollution

WASHINGTON, DC — This morning, the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules requiring coal-burning power plants in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2039. The E.P.A. also imposed additional regulations on coal-burning power plants including stricter limits on mercury emissions from lignite coal plants, as well as more tightly restricting the seepage of toxic ash and wastewater discharge. 

In June 2023, community members from 22 states and territories testified before the E.P.A. in support of the newly proposed rules to remove the loophole allowing energy companies to dump 500 millions of toxic coal ash (“coal combustion residuals”) in unlined pits across the country, including 88 coal ash pits within two miles of a great lake that provides drinking water to millions of Americans. The delegation was led by Earthjustice, the Climate Justice Alliance, Just Transition Northwest Indiana, and Chicago Jobs with Justice. 

Climate and environmental justice leaders from around the country praised the expanded regulation of coal ash.

Ennedith López, Policy Campaign Manager at Youth United 4 Climate Crisis Action: 

“New Mexico is on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The San Juan Generating Station resulted in 59 million tons of coal combustion residuals without any corporate accountability for those responsible.

“The rule is a critical step forward in protecting our land and water from any further injustices. But the only way to stop the contamination of our sacred water, land, and communities is to require comprehensive cleanup and ensure the closure of coal ash dumps, coal ash stored in mines, and coal ash residuals. So we support the rule and are calling for its expansion!” 

Ashley Williams, Executive Director of Just Transition Northwest Indiana (JTNWI), and standing declarant on the most recent lawsuit prompting the EPA to address the CCR legacy loopholes:

“My community of Michigan City, Indiana, has been waiting years for this day. Just Transition Northwest Indiana was founded with the mission of ensuring the removal of these exemptions that made our struggle for clean air and water invisible to the law. We fought on the local, state, and federal levels, suing the EPA, exhausting every avenue to compel them to listen to us.”

“Today, we commend Administrator Regan and the EPA for making this historic stride toward environmental justice and holding polluters accountable. The EPA must now act swiftly to enforce the complete cleanup and closure of all legacy coal ash dumps, including the Michigan City Generating Station, before it’s too late for our community and the millions of people who depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water.”

According to climate and environmental justice leaders, however, the rules do not go far enough in moving away from fossil fuels relying on false solutions like carbon capture and storage instead of developing real renewable energy solutions.

Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director, Institute for Policy Studies, responded specifically on the power plant emissions rule saying: 

“The EPA power plant emissions rule issued today is riddled with loopholes and relies on unproven technologies. The EPA rule relies on installation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment for several categories of power plants, in spite of overwhelming evidence that CCS is expensive, energy intensive, and does not work as advertised. By requiring co-firing with gas for coal-fired plants retiring by 2039, the EPA is ignoring the  growing scientific evidence of higher lifecycle emissions for gas than their models account for, because of higher rates of upstream methane leakage than is assumed in the models. For low and intermediate load gas turbine power plants, which include highly polluting peaker plants, the EPA is requiring only incremental improvements in efficiency and the use of lower-emitting fuels. This is not the kind of power plant regulation we need in 2024 to address the growing threat of climate catastrophe, and the ongoing crisis of toxic air in frontline communities.”


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