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New EPA rules for power plants limiting carbon do nothing to limit other greenhouse gase emissions

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: This is The Real News, and I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Here’s what President Obama said in June about these new rules.


NOOR: Now joining us to discuss this is Bill Snape. He’s the senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, where he coordinates the Center’s legal and policy work on endangered species, the wilderness, and energy from Washington, D.C.

Thank you so much for joining us.


NOOR: So, Bill, talk to us about these new proposed rules. On one hand, Americans for Prosperity Ohio released a statement saying that this will kill coal as we know it in this country. You have other groups–and, in fact, the state of North Carolina, which has sued the EPA over a set of similar rules that were recently released. But you argue that these rules don’t go far enough.

SNAPE: That’s right. And I think the good news on the Obama proposal is that it finally does take aim at coal. We should be phasing out coal. This is a very dirty energy source.

The bad news is that the president is embracing natural gas, which is not nearly as clean as he would lead us on and in fact is going to head us in the wrong direction. So there’s the good and the bad and the ugly on this proposal. And the bottom-line bad news is: embracing natural gas is not the answer.

NOOR: And talk about why or what these new rules would mean, exactly mean for new coal power plants, and why, like, Americans for Prosperity are so against this.

SNAPE: Well, some people are against it because they’re against any type of change. And we have been reliant upon coal for a number of decades, and it’s time to get off. It’s a bad addiction, and it’s killing us.

The deal with natural gas is that it does burn more cleanly, but its process of extracting it from the earth is incredibly dirty. This is the fracking process, where clean water is impacted, earthquakes are caused, chemicals are put into the earth’s crust. So natural gas has its dirty underbelly, not the least of which is the release of methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon.

NOOR: And so there is–fracking is controversial, because a lot of what you have argued would be argued against by experts that work for the hydraulic fracturing industry. Talk exactly–talk about methane and why it’s so important to this discussion.

SNAPE: Well, methane’s important because it is such a powerful greenhouse gas and it is emitted throughout the entire natural gas lifecycle.

Hey, look, the reason why people like natural gas is we have a lot of it in the United States and it’s relatively cheap. It’s an orgy of natural gas. We have so much natural gas now, we want to export it to other countries.

But that does not mean it’s a good idea. It does not mean that we ought to dig up every square inch of earth in this country and frack for natural gas, which is basically what is occurring. We’re a little out of control right now with natural gas, so much so, again, that we want to export all this stuff all over the world.

NOOR: Now, is there a way to have an environmentally friendly natural gas burning process and extraction process?

SNAPE: I don’t think it will ever be environmentally friendly, but I think at a smaller scale we probably could tolerate it. What’s happening now is it’s happening literally everywhere. It’s happening on American public lands. It’s happening on state lands. It’s happening next door to where people live. It needs to be massively scaled down to not have the type of environmental injuries that we’re seeing.

NOOR: Bill Snape, thank you so much for joining us.

SNAPE: Thank you.

NOOR: You can follow @therealnews on Twitter, Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.

Thank you so much for joining us.


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Bill Snape is the Senior Counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity where he coordinates the Center’s legal and policy work on endangered species, wilderness, and energy from Washington, DC. He did his undergraduate work at the University of California at Los Angeles and received his law degree from George Washington University. He has written numerous articles, as well as a book, on natural-resource issues in his 20-year career, has taught environmental and international law, and was with Defenders of Wildlife before joining the Center. In addition to his work with the Center he coaches swimming at Gallaudet University.