By Anthony Adragna
May 13 --The Environmental Protection Agency is on track to propose “legally sound” guidelines for limiting carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act for existing power plants June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said May 13.
Speaking to the Association of Climate Change Officers Climate Strategies Forum, McCarthy said she has been “extremely pleased” with the cooperation the EPA has received from various agencies that have helped to ensure that the standards are legally sound and account for the effects the rule could have on various areas of the economy.
“We are going to show you that we were listening,” McCarthy said. “We are going to show you that you can get significant reductions from the energy sector in a way that's going to continue to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity, that is going to be continuing our quest to address the issue of climate change and that recognizes that we're all in this together.”
In an executive memorandum issued in June 2013, Obama asked the EPA to propose standards or guidelines for limiting carbon dioxide from existing power plants by June 1, 2014. However, June 1 is a Sunday, and since the agency does not issue proposed regulations on Sundays, it will issue the proposal on Monday, June 2, McCarthy said.
The EPA has touted unprecedented outreach with interested parties as it developed the standards. Meeting records obtained by Bloomberg BNA show the agency consulted with hundreds of groups in Washington and held more than 100 events at regional offices as it prepared the proposed rule .
Obama ordered the EPA to develop the standards under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act as part of his June 2013 climate action plan. The agency already has proposed standards for new power plants and the respective comment period closed May 9 .
McCarthy also described the Supreme Court's 6-2 decision reinstating the agency's cross-state air pollution rule as “one of the biggest wins our agency ever had,” because it both upheld the rulemaking and recognized the discretion the EPA has in interpreting statutes (EPA v. EME Homer City Generation L.P., 2014 BL 118432, U.S., No. 12-1182, 4/29/14; .
“[The Supreme Court] basically said that the good neighbor provision is very open to interpretation, but EPA did--and here's where I'll add some color--a bang up job at interpreting that in a way that was technically sound and in a way that was following the law,” McCarthy said. “We don't establish laws. We interpret them when clarity needs to be provided.”
The cross-state air pollution rule aims to reduce air pollution that crosses state lines in a cost-effective manner. The Supreme Court's decision overturned a 2012 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that vacated the regulation (EME Homer City Generation L.P. v. EPA, 696 F.3d 7, 75 ERC 1776, 2012 BL 213202 (D.C. Cir. 2012)).
McCarthy said the agency also is “very excited” about the decision because it reaffirmed the discretion the agency will use when it promulgates greenhouse gas emissions standards for power plants.
“[The decision] provided a wonderful platform and boost to the agency as we're going into greenhouse gas rulemaking, which is going to be challenging and requires the same kind of agency discretion,” McCarthy said. “When there's lack of clarity, EPA has tremendous discretion as long as they're following the law.”
Solutions to climate change, McCarthy said, would need to address environmental pollution while enabling economic growth to occur simultaneously. She called for the federal government to consider a more “holistic approach” to addressing climate change that could occur across various agencies.
“We are at a moment in time when people are demanding of us not just to protect the environment, but to grow the economy,” McCarthy said. “We need to meet those demands. And we need every step we take to be thought of in the most commonsense way.”
The federal government also should recognize tremendous strides made by state and local governments in addressing climate change and fully listen to the concerns of interested parties prior to implementing policies, McCarthy said.
She said the May 6 release of the National Climate Assessment underscored the idea that the effects of climate change already are being felt and require immediate action.
Likely impacts from climate change described in the assessment include increased heat waves and heavy precipitation events in the Northeast, reduced water availability in the Southeast, Southwest and Great Plains, and more frequent droughts, fires and floods in the Midwest, according to the report .
McCarthy, speaking later during a May 13 meeting of the Steel Manufacturers Association, encouraged energy-intensive industries to provide the EPA with feedback on the proposed rule for existing power plants.
McCarthy said that, while she does not believe the greenhouse gas emissions proposal will affect the reliability of the nation's electricity grid, businesses that rely on electricity should view the comment period on the proposal as an opportunity for their “voice to be heard” by the agency.
“I want companies to speak up,” she said. “So if you see something in that rule you don't like, let me know.”
McCarthy encouraged companies to suggest improvements to the proposed rule, noting that she is “unafraid” to alter a proposal if the EPA receives feedback that warrants changes. She said that in the past, the EPA has made changes based on public comments that have resulted in regulations that are more solid legally, technically accurate and cost-effective.
The EPA also is seeking to maintain the president's “enthusiasm” for growth in domestic manufacturing, according to McCarthy. She said the EPA wants ensure that the proposed power plant rule is consistent with what steel manufacturing companies need to realize growth in their sector.
With assistance from Patrick Ambrosio in Washington
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