The EPA on Friday announced new rules to reduce coal power's carbon footprint, ruffling the metaphoric feathers of a bi-partisan mix of Indiana political leaders.

"Unfortunately, the rules the EPA announced today ... will constrain any potential for an 'all of the above' energy strategy and harm our economy in the process," read a statement from Gov. Mike Pence's office.

"While we are all hopeful for the future of carbon capture and sequestration technology to reduce and store emissions, it has not yet been proven in an industrial setting," U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said in a news release. "I strongly believe there is a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, protecting our environment and our health, while at the same time making sure we are not excessively burdening the Hoosier families and businesses that rely on affordable power. The regulations proposed today fail..."

He groused that the rules allowed natural gas electricity generation to continue using existing technology while mandating that coal must have upgrades that Donnelly said have "not yet been proven viable in a commercial setting."

Donnelly joined Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in proposing the amendment S. 1392 to the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, to "ensure that EPA efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions are reflective of existing technology and do not negatively impact our economy."

HEC responds

When asked via email for analysis or comment on the effects of the EPA rules on Indiana, Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, responded via email:

"We respect the need to balance progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions with the pressures facing struggling, working class Hoosiers. But to characterize the proposed EPA policy as 'extreme' regrettably mischaracterizes the policy.

The policy, first off, applies only to new power plants, not existing power plants. Secondly, it essentially holds future power plant sources - whether natural gas, coal or another source - to virtually the same greenhouse gas emission limits; coal, in fact, has 30 years (according to one provision) to meet the standard - overshooting the standard initially, and then going below the standard at a later point. The EPA policy is colorblind - not discriminatory - to which fuel source is used, as long it generates significantly less greenhouse gas emissions, over time, than current technologies.

The Blunt-Donnelly amendment would effectively not put future energy resources on a level playing field, however, by holding coal to a lower standard.

Advocates of greater coal use in Indiana, whether policymakers or business leaders, should not look at this EPA policy with hostility, but rather as a worthy, long-delayed challenge to the coal industry to come to grips with global energy markets and global demand for low-carbon energy. Coal's future hinges squarely on whether it can commercialize carbon capture and sequestration; if it cannot, carbon-intensive coal will not be able compete in dozens of global markets where there are clear ceilings on greenhouse gas emissions."

Hoosier at EPA climate helm

As others decry the costs and uneven focus of the EPA's greenhouse gas regulation efforts, one bureaucrat with strong Indiana ties is at the helm of the agency's Office of Air and Radiation. As OAR's acting assistant administrator, Janet McCabe is thought by several Washington watchers to be Obama's pick to marshal his climate-change action plan following the promotion of her boss, Gina McCarthy, to EPA chief. Prior to joining EPA in 2009, McCabe was executive director of Improving Kids' Environment, an Indy-based children's environmental-health advocacy group and an adjunct faculty member at the Indiana University School of Medicine's Department of Public Health. She also brings to the task extensive government experience and two degrees from Harvard.

In other EPA news, protesters with Stop the Frack Attack and Americans Against Fracking plan to drop a petition at 2 p.m. Wednesday with 250,000 signatures for President Barack Obama and the EPA asking the feds to reopen investigations into allegations of fracking-related pollution in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming.

Eagle eyes

Feeling depressed about the environment? Hit Indy's new birding trail at IMA's 100 Acres Park. Here's a slideshow from NUVO photography intern Hannah Switzer.


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