Friday, May 22, 2009

Climate bill packed with protections for coal industry

Amos Coal Power Plant, Winfield, West Virginia 2007 (Mitch Epstein)

By Ken Ward Jr.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A climate change bill working its way through Congress this week has been packed with amendments aimed at giving the coal industry a chance to survive if technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions is eventually perfected and deployed.

Lawmakers have put off the most major pollution reductions until after 2020, have weakened carbon dioxide limits that would apply to specific coal-fired power plants, and are giving tens of billions of dollars in free pollution permits to coal-fired utilities.

While the changes weren't enough to placate the coal industry lobby, they have won backing from some key coal state lawmakers and somewhat qualified support from the United Mine Workers union.

But some environmental groups and other critics worry that the amendments go too far. They say the legislation's authors may have given coal operators and coal-fired utilities too much, especially while the bill is still early in the stages of being reviewed in the House and faces certain efforts to further water it down once it reaches the Senate.

Brent Blackwelder, president of the group Friends of the Earth, praised Chairman Henry Waxman and members of his House Energy and Commerce Committee for "their effort to find a path forward on global warming."

"Unfortunately, the result of their effort has been corrupted by members of Congress backed by oil and coal interests," Blackwelder said. …

Climate bill packed with protections for coal industry

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