A Free-Market Energy Blog


By Lance Brown -- May 7, 2012

As part of its effort to create dialogue with the American people on environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently launched a project in conjunction with SMITH Magazine, Six Words for the Planet.

The project, officially housed at this site, invites all citizens of the world to submit a six-word essay describing their feelings about Earth.

“Healthier families, cleaner communities, stronger America,” writes EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in her own offering. Other submissions from within EPA include the existential (“Many Nations. One Planet. Our Home.”) and haikuesque admonishment (“Breathe; A Moment in Nature. Breathe!”)

Catalyzing conversation about environmental topics is certainly not out of bounds like a lot of other things the agency has been doing–and caught doing. But most people have concerns that go beyond the (improving) environment.

Many have legitimate concerns about the national economy, our struggle to create and sustain quality jobs, and the affordability of energy for businesses and families. Everyday concerns where progress has turned into regress.

It is these concerns that EPA needs to hear, especially since the agency is actively pursuing regulations and policies that have a tremendous impact on those issues.

Is EPA Listening?

Consider the suite of regulations currently in process at EPA, which together pose billions of dollars in new costs to American consumers and threaten the reliability of America’s power grid. Chief among these is Utility MACT, a new regulation that will negatively affect coal-fired power plants across the nation.

Proponents of a robust American power portfolio have pointed out that the potential of accelerated closures of coal-fired plants caused by Utility MACT could mean that power providers nationwide are forced to turn to other energy sources to replace the lost capacity, creating higher consumer costs.

In fact, this is already happening in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, where GenOn Energy is shuttering eight plants due to “more stringent federal environmental regulations,” chief among those being Utility MACT. National studies have found that Utility MACT could shutter as much as 50,000 megawatts of capacity and cost as much as $300 billion nationwide.

Other EPA regulations such as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (also see here); Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Utilities stemming from Massachusetts vs. EPA (see here); and regulation of coal ash  as hazardous waste pose their own threats to affordability and reliability.

EPA’s choices are either to treat coal ash as a hazardous waste or let states decide how best to regulate the natural byproduct. The energy industry and consumer groups like PACE have made clear that EPA’s most stringent alternative – treating coal ash as hazardous waste – presents enormous logistical and financial challenges to the power sector. But is EPA listening?

Our Favorite Submissions … and Your Turn

The best outcomes for American energy policy are the product of rich and open conversation between stakeholders like power consumers and those setting important policy like EPA. That’s why PACE asked members of the public to submit their own six words for EPA.

Here are some of our favorites:

Stop making rules. Just enforce them.
Healthy communities begin with quality jobs
Cleanest air, water in 100 years
Wanted: practical, logical, feasible environmental policies
Full employment from science-based regulation
Balance of intelligent reason with stewardship?
EPA should listen to power consumers

Join the conversation. It’s easy. Directly submit here or email your response to me at lance@energyfairness.org.

Or simply submit your ideas as a comment to this post below.


  1. Brad R  

    The site now says “We are not accepting submissions at this time.”

    Pity. Here’s what I was going to submit: “Earth will survive. No panic needed.”


  2. Jonathan  

    My six words: Stay out of my life please


  3. T. Caine  

    How about, “Coal’s time has come. Move on.”


    Casting aside the ongoing climate change debate, I’m not sure why there is debate about coal’s antiquated presence in our modern society. How much is cheap energy really worth? I am all for affordable energy, but not at the expense of my personal health.

    How is coal ash not a hazardous material? It’s ingredients are not exactly benign: mercury, cadmium, selenium, chromium, lead, arsenic. These are carcinogens in high enough concentrations, so why is this stuff not bad for us? Yes, more expensive energy means more costs on our products that are passed onto consumers, but exposure to the byproducts of coal power bring costs of their own–I believe that Paul Epstein’s study put the low end at $175 billion annually with the high end at $523 billion. ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x/full ) While treating coal ash as hazardous waste may pose enormous logistical and financial challenges to companies, I would think that not doing so continues to pose serious health challenges to consumers. If keeping those substances farther away from us is more expensive then so be it, maybe coal just isn’t holistically cheap.

    I also think it’s easy for those on the fringe to say cheap power is great, but for people that actually live around these facilities the perspective can be different. What about the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago closing not because the EPA is telling them to, but reportedly because the residents don’t want them there anymore?

    Even as more coal plants are forced to install scrubbers on their stacks for tempering air pollution, they flush them out with water that is discharged into bodies of water with all too much proximity to the rest of us. According to the EPA/New York Times as of 2009 there were over 60 coal fired plants with over 25 Clean Water Act violations. That’s almost 10% of them (over 50% have violations and the top 7 had over 100 violations each).


    The attractive price of Natural Gas is carving into coal’s piece of the pie through market forces of its own. The EPA is just helping to speed up the direction we should be taking anyway. There are probably plenty of job opportunities for de-commissioning and cleaning up coal plant and mining sites.

    This article is from 2009. I know I’m in the minority here, but I continually find it pretty powerful: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/us/13water.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2



  4. rbradley  

    No more submissions at the official site??

    Heck, we are just helping to make it more interesting….

    My six words? ‘Property rights, not coercion, where possible.’


  5. mlauni  

    Crucifying producers to destroy the country


  6. Andrew  

    My six: ‘Mission Accomplished, Time to Pull Out’


  7. Lance Brown: Six Words for US EPA | JunkScience.com  

    […] MasterResource Share this:PrintEmailMoreStumbleUponTwitterFacebookDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in EPA and tagged greenie obstructionists, hatred of humans, misanthropy, rogue agency. Bookmark the permalink. ← Heavy news: 42 percent of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030 […]


  8. Ben  

    Caine, there are two ways that a substance can be hazardous.

    1: Being Characteristically hazardous. If it has hazardous properties or sufficient concentrations of contaminants (Listed here http://www.des.umd.edu/hw/rest/manual/codes.html) then it is hazardous. Any coal ash that has enough metals to worry about is already hazardous waste.

    2: Listed Hazardous Waste. If a substance is on the list, then it is hazardous no matter what is actually in it. Listed wastes are made to make identification easier and reduce testing. They are not designed to make material that is non-hazardous by nature, hazardous.

    Declaring coal ash hazardous, despite the fact that it does not have hazardous characteristics, would prohibit its use as concrete mix or road base; It would have to be placed into a hazardous waste landfill (effectively taking good material and throwing it in the garbage). The expected benefit of treating coal ash as hazardous is nothing, but the cost, from building more landfills, all the hazardous waste disposal junk, and the inferior concrete requring more road repair is tremendous.


  9. T. Caine  


    As an architect, I am certainly a proponent of using fly ash in concrete given that it’s sitting around and we have it anyway. That being said, how is it that just because it is hazardous waste it could not still be utilized in this process?

    Formaldehyde is a hazardous material and its disposal carries the requirement of certified handlers. I believe a disposal site for Formaldehyde requires an EPA identification number. Aside from being a carcinogen it’s amazing flammable/explosive.

    Despite all that, we use it in plenty of building products (though thankfully fewer and fewer as time goes on). It’s a common component in engineered wood products, upholstery, glues, paints and varnishes. Couldn’t this still be true for coal ash as well?


  10. Jean Demesure  

    6 words : save jobs first, kill EPA next.


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