Since 2005, anytime a new coal-fired power plant was proposed anywhere in the United States, a lawyer from the Sierra Club or an allied environmental group was assigned to stop it, by any bureaucratic or legal means necessary. And they succeeded. According to The Los Angeles Times, by 2008, the coalition claimed to have stopped construction of 65 power plants nationwide. As a result, domestic coal consumption in 2011 is lower today than it was in 1998.
The Sierra Club and their environmental allies are now implementing the same game plan. Only this time their targets are industrial plants and their weapon of choice is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act global warming regulations. The New York Times reports:
Two environmental groups have challenged the air pollution permit for a $750 million iron plant in southwestern Louisiana, which is the first project that was approved under the greenhouse gas regulations that were implemented by U.S. EPA in January.
The petition (pdf), which was filed yesterday by the Sierra Club and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, asks EPA to throw the brakes on a $3.4 billion complex being developed in southeastern Louisiana by Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp.↓ Continue Reading Below
“This is a long-term investment,” said Governor Bobby Jindal at a news conference announcing Nucor’s decision. The plant’s first phase, to be built within two years at a cost of $750 million, will create 500 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs with an average pay of $75,000 per year. Median yearly income in Louisiana: $28,000. If all five phases are completed, they will create an estimate 1,250 high-paying jobs.
Reportedly, several environmental organizations reviewed but decided not to challenge the DRI permit. Few people in Louisiana were likely surprised, however, when the Tulane Law School Environmental Law Clinic stepped forward to challenge the permit on behalf of the Sierra Club and another local activist group. A clinic “supervising attorney” signed the petition, which included a notation that the petition was “substantially prepared by” a law student.
Sierra Club’s petition cites a number of grounds compelling which it claims compels EPA to object to the Louisiana regulators’ permit approval. The most intriguing and troubling of them is that the GHG standards EPA adopted this past January should be applied retroactively to a permit approved last April. Sierra Club argues that state officials should have combined the pig iron plant project with the DRI project for purposes of determining GHG emissions. This argument flies in the face of one of our most fundamental principles of law: that laws and rules should generally not be applied retroactively. If EPA objects to the DRI permit on this ground, businesses across America should be very alarmed.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has assured manufacturers and small business that the EPA could narrowly tailor their global warming rules to protect jobs. As this Sierra Club suit shows, narrow tailoring of Clean Air Act rules is impossible. Enviros will simply use any rule, no matter how it is written, to shut down the projects they don’t like.