Jackson to Reverse Johnson’s Reversal!

Breaking News!  Remember back in December, when I was having a daily conniption due to various midnight memos and parting shots from the outgoing Bush administration?  Particularly troubling was former EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s decision to reverse the landmark Bonanza decision.  Well, now Johnson’s reversal has been reversed.

Last November the EPA’s governance board ruled that its regional office had been too hasty in approving  a new coal-fired power plant in Bonanza, Utah because the plant didn’t include carbon dioxide emissions or control techniques in their permit application.  The Sierra Club helped secure this victory by filing a suit against Utah’s Deseret Power Electric Cooperative for not controlling carbon dioxide. Their argument was based upon the landmark Massachusetts v EPA case, which required the agency to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.  But then at the last minute, outgoing Stephen Johnson issued a memo reversing this decision and saying that the EPA should ignore CO2 emissions when permitting new coal fired power plants.

But REJOICE, for this morning the Sierra Club reports:

Washington, DC: President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today took the first step toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA, under the new leadership of Administrator Lisa Jackson, granted a petition from the Sierra Club and other groups calling for reconsideration of an unlawful, midnight memo issued by former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson which sought to prohibit controls on global warming pollution from coal plants. EPA announced in a letter to the Sierra Club that it will publish a proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and seek public comments on the decision in the near future.

Today’s decision is consistent with a previous ruling by the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) in the Bonanza case, which found that there was no valid reason for the Bush administration’s refusal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The so-called Johnson Memo sought to unlawfully overturn that decision.

Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund filed suit against the Bush administration to overturn the Johnson Memo. That litigation will now be put on hold as a result of today’s announcement.

Okay, so the EPA hasn’t officially nixed the memo, but they are posting a proposed rulemaking (to nix it) and inviting public comment.  Not too shabby for a Tuesday.

The decision to grant the Sierra Club’s petition says a lot about the EPA’s new direction and leadership under Lisa Jackson.

Said David Bookbinder, Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club in a press release this morning,

Today’s victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular. This decision stops the Bush Administration’s final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming.

Not only does today’s decision signal a good start for our clean energy future, it also signals a return to policy based on sound science and the rule of law, not deep pocketbooks or politics. Lisa Jackson is making good on her promises to bring science and the rule of law back into the center of the decision making process at EPA.

We live in exciting times.