Josh Galeprin, Esq. writing for cleanenergy.org dismantles the Southern Company's arguments against following the rules of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) under a new proposal by the EPA requiring stricter limits on utility emissions.
In typical Southern Company fashion, they would rather fight than switch.
Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power in April bemoaning the loss of revenue, jobs and increased rates to customers as his reasons to delay the EPA's looming deadline of implementation for the stricter rules.
Mr. Fanning had a lot to say to the subcommittee, but what was conspicuously absent from his testimony were the huge health costs and consequences to the public at large if Congress agreed to the delay he was asking them for.
Not one word about those, but plenty about the money and 'inconvenience' to his company.
Southern's website has this motto: "Think Bold, Act Sure"
John Walke director of the Clean Air Program for the National Resources Defense Councilof the National Resources Defense Council has something to say about that motto and Southern's decades-old bad attitude towards responsibility, compliance and accountabilty:
The public deserves to know why Southern’s “boldness” does not include taking responsibility for its air pollution and the consequences, while it “acts sure” that we won’t notice how much our public health is suffering.
We couldn't agree more with Mr Walke and Mr. Galeprin.
This is all coming to head with a ruling from the SCOTUS on June 20th rebuking lawsuits "brought by states against power plants to reduce their emissions as a public nuisance." The SCOTUS ruled that the ultimate authority lies with the EPA following a Bush era ruling in Massachusetts vs EPA case from 2007.
In that case, the high court ruled against the Bush administration's position and confirmed that the EPA does have a duty to protect the public from dangerous smokestack emissions and carbon pollution under authority granted to the agency through the CAA & CWA.
Big business has been fighting the ruling ever since and no utility has resisted as stubbornly as the Southern Company (John Walke):
Forty years after the Clean Air Act was enacted, half of Southern’s power plant units still lack basic pollution control equipment called scrubbers that reduce the most deadly forms of air pollution.
Other utility companies, from Duke Energy serving the Carolinas and Midwestern states to Constellation Energy serving Mid-Atlantic, New England and other states, have said they stand ready to comply with the standards on time.
It’s not as if the company hasn’t known these standards were coming, since they are more than a decade overdue.
But Southern has chosen to continually put off cleaning up all of their dirtiest power plants, and now wants to continue the delay even longer.
In the meantime, people continue to die, get sick and miss work and school because of the pollutants that Southern and other power companies spew into our air.
Monday's ruling by the SCOTUS "puts the spotlight" squarely on the EPA to act in the best interest of the public. We're hoping they will continue their forward march to finally reign in the big polluters, but we're not going to hold our breath that will happen.
The EPA has dropped the ball in the last year on stricter coal ash regulations and boiler emissions rules implementation after signaling itself ready to crack down hard on both known sources of highly risky toxins. Despite the winds of heavy public sentiment in favor of increased oversight to push forward, the EPA caved to industry pressure and refused to act.
The EPA's reluctance might have something to do with the methods behind Southern's motto: big corporate money "thinks bold" in buying lawmakers sympathies through generous donations and it's agenda "acts sure" of its ability to persuade governmental agencies to back off.
Photo credit: SF Gate Charlie Riedel AP