Congress should do its job on energy legislation


To the Editor:

Three years of inaction by Congress demonstrates their ineptness at promulgating meaningful energy legislation and does not justify wasting their time, instead, in trying to prevent the EPA from doing its mandated judicial directive to establish federal climate regulations.

A coalition of 24 industry groups sent a letter on June 10, to members of the Senate urging them to support a resolution from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would prevent U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The list includes but is not limited to: American Coke and Coal Chemicals Institute, American Iron and Steel Institute, American Petroleum Institute, National Mining Association, National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, Natural Gas Supply Association, and the U.S. Oil and Gas Association — all involved with fossil fuels that release uncontrolled carbon dioxide and pollutants when ignited and burned to release their inherent heat energy.

In 2007, a U.S. Court codified EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The court decision stemmed from a request by Big Coal to have coal-fired power plants delisted as sources of hazardous pollutants.

Every week Big Coal explodes the equivalent energy from the Hiroshima bomb to remove the hilltops from West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee with ghastly consequences. Instead of removing the coal from the mountain, the mountain is removed from the coal. Waste from mountaintop removal turns about 400,000 acres of some of the world’s most biologically rich, temperate forests into flat, barren wastelands. The sludge from this process is collected behind 700 coal slurry dams or impoundments, about 200 built over abandoned mines. On February 26, 1972, one such dam gave way in Logan County West Virginia. Some 132 million gallons of sludge suddenly flooded the Buffalo Creek Valley floor, destroying 17 communities, killing 125 people, and leaving 4,000 homeless. In 2002, EPA decided mountaintop removal did not violate the 1970 Clean Water Act and classified the material as fill, not waste, which meant it did not require regulation.

Nationwide, power plants emit two-thirds of the sulfur dioxide, 22 percent of nitrogen oxides, one-third of mercury, 40 percent of carbon dioxide and 60 varieties of what the EPA classifies as “hazardous air pollutants” annually. A partial list: lead 176,000 lbs., chromium 161,000 lbs, arsenic 100,000 lbs, and mercury 96,000 lbs. And, that’s just what goes into the air. In addition, 130 million tons of solid waste — the ash that remains after coal is burned — is dumped into “ash ponds.” That is three times as much as all municipal garbage in the U.S.

I would suggest the Congress spend more time doing its job in coming up with meaningful energy legislation, rather than spending time trying to prevent the EPA from doing theirs.

Peter Cabana