In an exciting development, the Environmental Appeals Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency has handed down a ruling that effectively freezes construction of as many as 100 new coal-fired power plants around the U.S. The ruling requires new coal plants and expansions of existing ones to include “Best Available Control Technology,” and it seems that it will be up to the next administration to define what that means. The ruling directly impacts permits for 30 new plants in the seven states directly regulated by the EPA planning process, as well as all projects on Indian Reservations.
This will be a good opportunity for the Obama administration to demonstrate its commitment to building a low-carbon economy. That being said, it will also be a major challenge. The coal industry is large and powerful in the United States, and some regions are more than 90% dependent on coal power. Forcing them to introduce expensive (and, in some cases, largely untested) new greenhouse gas mitigation technologies will require a lot of political courage.
The full decision (PDF) is available online.