McCarthy Not Concerned About Potential Power Plan Rulings Before Paris Talks

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By Patrick Ambrosio

March 30 — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said she is not concerned about possible federal appeals court rulings on the proposed Clean Power Plan in advance of international climate change negotiations in Paris.

McCarthy, speaking March 30 at an event presented by Politico, said the EPA does not expect that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will strike down the Clean Power Plan. She indicated that the U.S. doesn't have a backup plan if the proposed power plant regulations, a key part of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, were to be struck down before the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 meeting in Paris.

“I don’t need a Plan B if I’m solid on my Plan A,” McCarthy said.

The D.C. Circuit April 16 will hear oral arguments in two lawsuits challenging the proposed Clean Power Plan: a lawsuit by Murray Energy that alleges the regulation violates the plain text of the Clean Air Act and a lawsuit by 12 states that challenges a settlement agreement under which the EPA agreed to propose carbon dioxide standards for power plants. All three judges on the panel that will hear both cases were appointed by Republican presidents (In re Murray Energy Corp., D.C. Cir., No. 14-1112, merits panel assigned 3/18/15; West Virginia v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 14-1146, merits panel assigned 3/18/15).

China Agreement Highlighted 

Obama has the authority to implement everything that he is looking to include in a U.S. commitment to address climate change, McCarthy said.

McCarthy pointed to the November 2014 agreement between the U.S. and China on carbon emissions as a signal that there has been a shift in the international discussion on climate issues that can be taken advantage of at the upcoming Paris talks. That joint agreement calls for the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2012 and for China to peak its carbon emissions and increase the use of alternative fuels to 20 percent of the nation's energy mix by 2030.

If the two largest sources of carbon emissions can reach an agreement to address climate change, then “we're going to be OK moving into Paris,” McCarthy said.

Keystone Comments Defended 

McCarthy defended the EPA's recent comments to the State Department on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

In its letter, the EPA said that further development of Canadian oil sands would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

McCarthy acknowledged that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline wouldn't be a “disaster” for the climate on its own, but she said the EPA letter advised the State Department that the extraction of tar sands is more intensive from a greenhouse gas standpoint than other forms of energy development. McCarthy described the letter as conforming to the normal way that EPA comments on environmental issues to other agencies.

“We didn't conclude anything because we're not the concluder,” she said, alluding to the fact that the State Department, not the EPA, is conducting the review.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Ambrosio in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at