Given the opportunity last month to adhere to the Supreme Court’s findings in the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA, the EPA chose instead to completely ignore the ruling and proceed as if the case had never been heard. It issued a permit to Deseret Power to construct a 110-megawatt coal-fired power unit at an existing power plant in Uintah County, Utah.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson urging him to reverse his decision and asking him to answer some important questions. The letter is available at this link. Here are highlights:

On August 30, 2007 , EPA issued a permit to Deseret Power for the construction of a 110-megawatt coal-fired power unit at the Bonanza Power Plant in Uintah County, Utah. The Deseret Bonaiua permit decision presented EPA with its first opportunity since the Supreme Court ruling to address the global warming harm from a major new stationary source of greenhouse gases. While relatively small, this unit has the potential to emit up to 90 million tons of CO2 over an estimated 50-year lifetime. As the permitting authority for this plant, EPA had to decide whether to issue the permit and whether to require carbon dioxide pollution controls or other mitigating measures under the permit …

… EPA ruled in the permit decision that CO2 is not “subject to regulation” under the [Clean Air] Act and thus that EPA cannot require the plant to apply the best available control technology to reduce greenhouse gases. According to EPA, CO2 cannot be considered “subject to regulation” because CO2 is not yet regulated by “a statutory or regulatory provision that requires actual control of emissions.” In essence, the EPA argument is that because EPA has not regulated CO2 emissions in the past, the agency cannot regulate CO2 emissions now.

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This is a bootstrap argument that conflicts with the plain language of the statute and blatantly misconstrues the Supreme Court’s recent holding. …

… I request your cooperation in the Committee’s investigation into the process that led to the Deseret Power decision. First, I ask that you provide the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform copies of all documents relating to communications between EPA and any other federal agency or the White House that relate to (1) the Deseret Power application or (2) the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when making permitting decisions for new coal or gas-fired power plants.

The tentative deadline for that information and the answers to other questions in the letter is October 3.

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