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Considering Alternatives: The Case for Limiting CO2 Emissions From New Power Plants Through New Source Review

July 2004

Citation: ELR 10642

Author: Gregory B. Foote

Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are changing the earth's climate in ways that could lead to catastrophe. The United States is the largest emitter of these gases, producing almost one-fourth of worldwide emissions of CO2, the dominant greenhouse gas. Power plants alone account for one-third of total U.S. emissions of CO2.3 A prompt transition to economies based on efficient use of renewable, nonpolluting energy sources rather than carbon-based fuels might avoid the worst effects of climate change by stabilizing greenhouse gases at acceptable levels. But even if that transition begins now, world energy forecasts predict that for the next several decades, fossil fuel use will greatly increase. Of special concern, many new coal-fired power plants may be built in the United States--and elsewhere, particularly in China and other developing countries. In order to limit further harm to the global environment, these plants--if they are built at all--should be constructed in a way that minimizes CO emissions and facilitates future capture and safe storage of those emissions. This Article outlines a way of accomplishing that task under current U.S. law.


Gregory B. Foote is Assistant General Counsel in the Air and Radiation Law Office at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since 1990, he has led a team of lawyers at EPA providing counseling and litigation support on a range of environmental issues. These include new source review, operating permits, visibility protection, enforcement and monitoring, nuclear waste disposal, and secondhand tobacco smoke. During 2003, he was a Faculty Visitor at the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, University of Auckland. He is presently detailed to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in Washington, D.C. The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Monica Derbes Gibson, Acting Assistant General Counsel, EPA, and Donald Goldberg, Senior Attorney, CIEL, for reviewing a draft of this Article and making valuable suggestions. The views expressed in this Article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of either EPA or CIEL.

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