Coal on hold

The decision by an Environmental Protection Agency appeals board, blocking construction of an addition to a coal-fired power plant at Bonanza, Utah, will have important repercussions for this region and the entire nation.

The EPA issued a permit approving the 86 megawatt addition in 2007. But the Sierra Club challenged the permit, and the appeals board last week said the Denver office of the EPA failed to provide adequate controls on carbon dioxide emissions at the plant.

The Sierra Club’s David Bookbinder said of the decision, it will “stop permitting of any coal burning power plants while EPA mulls over what to do next.” And therein lies the problem.

Coal is the nation’s most abundant fuel supply, with official estimates suggesting we have enough to power this country at current levels for several hundred years.

But coal-fired electric plants are also among the largest sources of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

And during the recent presidential campaign, Vice President-elect Joe Biden famously said he wanted “No coal plants here in America.” However, Barack Obama’s Web site said he would work with private industry to develop new, clean-coal technology.

Let’s hope he does so quickly.  Unless environmentalists are willing to suddenly embrace nuclear power or substantially ramp up natural gas production, there is no other technology available now that can meet our growing electricity requirements.


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