The Sierra Club is ready to go “Beyond Gas.”
The environmental group is re-branding its natural gas-reform campaign as a spinoff of its successful “Beyond Coal” campaign, according to a National Journal report.
“As we push to retire coal plants, we’re going to work to make sure we’re not simultaneously switching to natural-gas infrastructure,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told National Journal in an interview on Wednesday. “And we’re going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can.”
The Sierra Club once had a cozy relationship with the natural gas industry, taking more than $25 million in contributions from Chesapeake Energy Corp. and its subsidiaries to fund the fight against coal.
Brune ended that relationship when he took over as the environmental group’s director in March 2010. He said the club originally worked with Chesapeake because staff and volunteers concluded natural gas might be a viable alternative to coal in electricity generation, but some local chapters developed increasing concerns about gas production.
In a February post on his blog, Brune said he believes unregulated gas drilling poses a threat to the country’s health and environment.
“It’s time to stop thinking of natural gas as a “kinder, gentler” energy source. What’s more, we do not have an effective regulatory system in this country to address the risks that gas drilling poses on our health and communities. The scope of the problems from under-regulated drilling, as well as a clearer understanding of the total carbon pollution that results from both drilling and burning gas, have made it plain that, as we phase out coal, we need to leapfrog over gas whenever possible in favor of truly clean energy,” Brune wrote. ”Instead of rushing to see how quickly we can extract natural gas, we should be focusing on how to be sure we are using less — and safeguarding our health and environment in the meantime.”
The Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club does not have any information about its stance on natural gas development on its website. Local officials deferred to a national spokesman when The Oklahoman asked about their stance on the “Beyond Gas” campaign.
“National Sierra Club and the Beyond Natural Gas campaign will always support each chapter’s state-specific goals. We will also continue to help the Oklahoma Chapter in their effort to double down on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency,” said Jason Pitt, press secretary for the Sierra Club campaign.
Oral arguments in a court case against the Environmental Protection Agency by several states, utilities and business groups are today in a District of Columbia federal appeals court.
The case, EME Homer City Generation LP v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Case No. 11-1302), challenges the EPA’s right to enforce a rule that would limit pollution from power plants that crosses state lines. The EPA says it has the right to enforce the rule after years of noncompliance by states. The other parties, however, say that the federal Clean Air Act gives states the primary responsibility to enforce clean-air rules.
Among the parties disputing enforcement of the rule were the state of Oklahoma and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, which has more than 500,000 electric customers in the state.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has stayed enforcement of the EPA rule as the case is pending.
A panel discussion on Energy Transitions at Oklahoma City University on Tuesday evening featured the CEOs of electric generation company American Electric Power and the American Clean Skies Foundation.
My brief recap of the panel is here.
Here’s also a couple of short interviews with Nick Akins, president and CEO of AEP, and Gregory Staple, CEO of American Clean Skies Foundation. They talk about the fuel mix needed for electric utilities and efforts for energy efficiency.
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules for new power plants that would sharply limit the amount of greenhouse gases they can emit for electricity generation.
The rules would not apply to current power plants or plants planned for construction in the next 12 months. They cover only power plants that burn fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. Practically, the proposed rules would apply mostly to new coal power plants, since the EPA said about 95 percent of natural-gas power plants already meet the new standards for emissions.
The new standard for fossil-fuel power plants would be 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Most coal plants currently operate in the
1,600 to 1,800 2,200 range of pounds of CO2/megawatt hour.
Coal powers about 45 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. Natural gas makes up 24 percent and nuclear provides 20 percent.
In Oklahoma, there are no current plans for new natural gas or coal-fired power plants, so the proposed EPA rules would have little impact right now.
Once the rules are published in the Federal Register, EPA will accept comments on the proposed rules for 60 days. The agency also plans to hold public hearings.