EPA fulfills Obama's promise on coal

We can’t say we weren’t warned. In January 2008, Barack Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that people would have to be crazy to open a coal-fueled electricity plant, because Obama’s policies would make energy costs “skyrocket” and send them into bankruptcy. Now the EPA has issued an unprecedented order to renege on a permit already granted to open a coal-generator plant in a Navajo reservation in New Mexico that has the tribe and its supporters steaming:

In a dramatic move yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew the air quality permit it issued last summer for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, which is slated to be built on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region just southwest of Farmington, New Mexico. …

Jeff Holmstead, former head of the air program at EPA and now head of the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm representing the plant’s developer, Sithe Global, said in a statement that he has “never seen anything like it.”

“I don’t think anyone ever imagined that the new team at EPA would seem to have such little regard for due process or basic notions of fairness,” Holmstead said. “Everyone understands that a new Administration has discretion to change rules and policies prospectively. But I’ve never seen any Administration try to change policies and rules retroactively.”

The Navajo tribe, which hoped to bolster its economy by selling the electricity and employing its members, lashed out as well:

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley said in a statement the decision was further proof that the U.S. government isn’t “honest and truthful in its dealings with Native America.” Shirley said that the EPA withdrawal of the permit will harm the Navajo people.

“I have people dying every day because of poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, gangs, and the U.S. Government is not there to adequately fund the direct service programs that cater to these needs,” he said.

Shirley concluded by saying that the message from the EPA is that it will hold projects “on Navajo land to standards that may well be impossible to meet — and that wouldn’t be applicable elsewhere.”

Here’s what Obama told the Chronicle, and what the editors of the Chronicle sat on for almost ten months:

So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.

The huge sum would have to come from a Congressionally-approved cap-and-trade system, which appears to be going nowhere at the moment. Instead, Obama has sent the EPA to act as his hatchet man, killing off energy producers in order to get via regulation what he cannot get through legislation.

The EPA sided with the state of New Mexico on other grounds, but they’re pretty transparent. The regulators said that the Navajos should have proposed using a gasification process that’s still in the experimental phase and hasn’t been proven at all. In fact, Al Gore called it a myth just this month, so apparently the EPA expected the Navajos to include a mythical system in order to retroactively justify the permit they had in their hand.

Obama has declared war on energy producers, and the EPA is his regulatory army.  They just won their first victory, and the Navajos will be poorer for it — and so will their potential customers, who could have benefited from more plentiful resources.