McCarthy Defends Proposed Carbon Rule For Power Plants in Advance of Hearings

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By Andrew Childers  

July 28 — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy preemptively countered claims that proposed carbon dioxide standards for power plants would harm the economy as the agency prepares for a series of public hearings on the proposal.

McCarthy told reporters July 28 that the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set carbon emissions standards for existing power plants, will create economic opportunities. McCarthy defended the EPA's history of reducing air pollution through cost-effective measures and countered industry claims that the proposed rule would damage the economy.

“Since EPA has existed we've cut air pollution by more than 70 percent while the GDP has tripled,” she said.

The EPA has scheduled public hearings on the proposed rule in four cities beginning July 29. It will take comment on the proposed rule July 29 and 30 in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, and July 31 and Aug. 1 in Pittsburgh.

The EPA has moved its Atlanta public hearings from the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center to the nearby Omni Hotel as a result of a power outage.

The EPA's proposed standards would set a unique carbon dioxide emissions rate for the power sector in each state (RIN 2060-AR33). The states would administer the standards under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The EPA anticipates its proposal could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the existing fleet of power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 at a cost to the power industry of $5.4 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030 (79 Fed. Reg. 34,959).

Second Round of Outreach

McCarthy said the EPA's outreach to states and utilities before proposing the rule was “historic” and called the public hearings an extension of that outreach effort.

“We think this is an opportunity for us to really look at a plan that we believe will cut harmful carbon pollution that fuels climate change from the power sector and have an opportunity to shift to cleaner energy sources and cut energy waste,” she said.

The EPA's proposal has already generated 300,000 comments, and McCarthy said the agency is still open to revising its rule based on the feedback it receives.

“We want to leave no stone unturned and no good ideas should be off the table,” she said.

Groups Supportive, Seek Improvements

Environmental groups said July 28 that they will support the EPA's proposal during the public hearings. However, they also said they will advocate the agency seek opportunities to improve its proposed rule by placing a greater emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency and taking into account coal-fired power plants that have already been slated to close.

“We think when you look into the state-by-state projections in the proposed rule there are plenty of opportunities to strengthen the standards on both energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told reporters July 28.

Brune said that environmental groups will ask the EPA in comments on the proposal to look at ways to seek deeper emissions reductions and foster more renewable energy in states.

“I have a prediction: By 2030 clean energy will be playing a much bigger role in our economy than even EPA is anticipating,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at achilders@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl in Washington at lpearl@bna.com