Monday, April 14, 2008

Got a local controversy over a coal-fired power plant? It's probably part of a national campaign

A quick search through our archives would turn up many posts about contested proposals for new coal-fired power plants, such as one in southwest Virginia, opposed by protesters (in a Bristol Herald Courier photo by David Crigger). Throughout the country, almost every proposal for new construction or even an expansion of an existing plant has stirred strong opposition, often supported with legal help from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

While opponents of coal-fired plants seek immediate and local goals, "the plant-by-plant strategy is part of a campaign by environmentalists to force the federal government to deal with climate change," reports Judy Pasternak of the Los Angeles Times. "The fights are scattered from Georgia to Wyoming, from Illinois to Texas, but the ultimate target is Washington, where the Bush administration has resisted placing limits on carbon dioxide and Congress has yet to act on a global warming bill." Those on the other side — utilities and other companies in the energy business — are fighting back with ad campaigns and legal maneuvering of their own, "bringing the clash over coal to a pitch that rivals the environmental and legal fights over nuclear power decades ago."

The environmental coalition, which includes Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Integrity Project, takes credit for derailing 65 coal-related power projects in the last three years, but an industry lobbyist told Pasternak the actual number is far smaller. Still, industry leaders are trying to form a strategy to rebuff the environmentalists' challenges, but because different companies have such different stances on global warming a comprehensive plan has been elusive.

"Since a meeting in Washington last summer, the partners in the anti-coal crusade have been focusing more squarely on carbon dioxide emissions in their local skirmishes, hoping to create precedents for dealing with a pollutant that is not federally regulated," Pasternak writes. She provides nice summary of the national trend, and it's worth a read to learn more about how local disputes fit into the bigger picture. (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The headline could be read as saying that local plants only become a controversy because of a targeted national campaign.

But the story lists four big groups that may have something to do with it, and none that is specifically in control of the campaign. In other words, it's a decentralized group of activists and concerned citizens.

In a democracy, it is only common sense that they would coordinate their efforts. With that in mind, I have an alternative headline: "Coal campaigns are democracy in action".