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Policy: Environment & Energy

Behind the war on coal's big-money networks

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National Resources Defense Council's $97 million revenue and the network of allies that money can mobilize makes them powerful beyond anything the public is aware of. Along with the Sierra Club, via grants to at least 80 other groups during the last couple years, just these two groups become dozens of groups preaching the Big Green gospel.
This chart shows grants from NRDC and the Sierra Club to other nonprofits. Drag to move, click a node to focus, double click to see nonprofit detail.
Ron Arnold,Columnists,Sierra Club,EPA,Analysis,Energy and Environment,Coal

Let’s face it, President Obama and his administration's appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency are deliberately and methodically destroying the coal industry for ideological and political reasons.

Obama’s latest war-on-coal assault is the EPA's proposed requirement that new coal-fired electricity-generating plants must comply with “carbon capture and storage” standards for cleaner emissions — which many believe are unachievable.

The requirement is contained in the agency's “New Source Performance Standards” for new power plants, which would require installation of technologies that are not commercially viable.

This approach is a typical Obama “now-do-something-else-you-can’t-do” tactic to stop anything the administration wants to be stopped without having to go on the record with an explicit order to cease.

The Clean Air Act provides that emissions standards must be achievable using “adequately demonstrated” technologies, and this proposed rule doesn’t measure up, according to House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders.

In a recent hearing, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., vice chairman of the committee's energy and power subcommittee, grilled EPA Acting Assistant Administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe on the agency's "adequate demonstration.”

McCabe asserted that the EPA adequately demonstrated CSS technologies on four new coal-fired power plants.

After several pointed requests from Scalise, and some hemming and hawing by McCabe, she reluctantly gave the names and locations.

Then, with more poking, McCabe even more reluctantly admitted that the EPA used these four projects to justify its proposed standards.

Here’s why McCabe was reluctant to cough up that information: The projects that the agency used as the basis for its rule determination don’t exist yet!

The Kemper plant in Mississippi and the Boundary Dam project in Canada that McCabe cited are under construction but not yet completed, and two other projects she cited have not yet broken ground.

Based on these facts, committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., vice chairwoman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., energy and power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Scalise sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy telling her they believe the proposed standards go beyond the scope of the EPA’s legal authority and requesting that the proposed rule be withdrawn.

Predictably, Big Green’s bully boys in the Natural Resources Defense Council are staging a pushback, and the ferociously anti-fossil fuel Sierra Club never quits pushing America toward energy oblivion.

Dave Hawkins, NRDC’s director of climate programs, slicked the issue with a long, detailed, insulting blog, calling the oversight panel’s claims “idiotic.”

His arguments veered off into weed thickets about federal funding, then wound up with the assertion that EPA's proposed rule is justified by existing Department of Energy studies and industrial experience elsewhere.

Hawkins closed with the remarkable conclusion that the rule’s CCS technology “is adequately demonstrated even if none of the current impending CCS power plant projects existed.”

Is that some kind of quantum physics joke? Does it mean that the EPA used those nonexistent power plants as the basis for its proposed rule because they weren’t needed? Sure.

When I asked Whitfield what he thought, he said, “The agency already revised its proposal once over legal concerns, and based on clear language in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, this new proposal also goes beyond the scope of the agency’s legal authority.”

The EPA is still on the existential hook, but it’s often pointless to argue about facts with Big Green advocates and supporters in government.

This is not about facts, it’s about ideology and politics. The NRDC’s $97 million revenue and the network of allies that money can mobilize makes them powerful beyond anything of which the general public is aware.

Combined with the protesting-boots-on-the-ground mobilizing power of the Sierra Club, these two groups easily transform themselves into the appearance of dozens of groups preaching the Big Green gospel.

We don’t often think of green groups such as NRDC and the Sierra Club as giving out money because they have so much money coming in, mostly from foundations.

In fact, both groups support vast networks of friendly individuals and organizations, some closely related, others loosely related, but all allies of the donating green group.

To visualize these NRDC and Sierra Club money and power networks — which are only two among hundreds of such Big Green networks — examine the accompanying network diagram, which is based on IRS Form 990 tax returns.

Keep in mind that you are looking only at money that NRDC and the Sierra Club gave to other groups. You are entering a new world of thinking about Big Green.

Ron Arnold, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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Ron Arnold

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The Washington Examiner