Last month, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began regulating greenhouse gases from power plants and polluters for the first time. The new regulations stirred immediate controversy as critics predicted they would only slow down the nation's economic recovery. Uncertainty in the agency's regulations caused energy producers to stall plans for future operations in an already struggling economy.
"Finally we've got the rules that are beginning to require power companies to account for their global warming pollution," Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Cale Jaffe said. "That's a historic turn of events."
But just one month later, the Obama administration has begun handing out exemptions from the rules, starting with a power plant project stocked with technology from the company whose boss now leads the president's own Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -- Jeffrey Immelt's GE.
The Obama administration will spare a stalled power plant project in California from the newest federal limits on greenhouse gases and conventional air pollution, U.S. EPA says in a new court filing that marks a policy shift in the face of industry groups and Republicans accusing the agency of holding up construction of large industrial facilities.
According to a declaration by air chief Gina McCarthy, officials reviewed EPA policies and decided it was appropriate to "grandfather" projects such as the Avenal Power Center, a proposed 600-megawatt power plant in the San Joaquin Valley, so they are exempted from rules such as new air quality standards for smog-forming nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
The Avenal Power Center just so happens to be fully-equipped by GE:
The proposed Avenal Energy project will be a combined-cycle generating plant consisting of two natural gas-fired General Electric 7FA Gas Turbines with Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSG) and one General Electric Steam Turbine.
The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney points out that while this may be just a coincidence, it is an awfully large coincidence:
Maybe GE CEO Jeff Immelt's closeness to President Obama, and his broad support for Obama's agenda, had nothing to do with this exemption. But we have no way of knowing that, and given the administration's record of regularly misleading Americans regarding lobbyists, frankly, I wouldn't trust the White House if they told me there was no connection.
On the upside, at least Job Czar Immelt is creating jobs!