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McCarthy Touts Collaborative Effort In Developing Power Plant Emissions Rule

Friday, May 23, 2014

By Paul Shukovsky  

May 22 --The Environmental Protection Agency has written its proposed rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants with collaboration in mind and will continue listening to interested parties, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said May 22 in Seattle.

Speaking in advance of the June 2 release of the proposed rule, McCarthy told a round table of public officials, venture capitalists and business, labor and utility representatives that EPA has sought to be flexible in working with states on the soon-to-be proposed rule.

“My goal is not to preempt governments, it's to enable them,” she said.

She noted that the EPA already has received about 10,000 comments on the proposal, and that is before the formal comment period even has opened. “What you see is the start of an even more intense dialogue,” McCarthy said.

“For people who don't like this, they are trying to preserve their option to be wasteful” as opposed to protecting the planet, she said, adding that climate change is “the biggest challenge this generation will face.”

The proposed rule, part of President Barack Obama's climate action plan, is being developed under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which gives states significant authority to determine how best to implement the rule .

'Real Reductions’ Needed

“The president's message to me on the rule that we are going to be putting forward on June 2 is to make sure that we are getting real reductions in greenhouse gases, because we have a moral obligation to address climate change,” McCarthy said during a news briefing after the roundtable.

Section 111(d) “provides lots of flexibility for the federal government to establish a standard that we can move forward with nationally. But it also is an opportunity for states to have the flexibility to develop plans on how to achieve those reductions in a way that's economically beneficial to them, that is unique to their energy mix and that will allow them to establish their own energy policies as long as the carbon pollution reductions that we are going to require in this rule actually are achieved,” she said.

Inconsistent Policies

In response to a question from Bloomberg BNA, McCarthy addressed the inconsistency on the part of the Obama administration by proposing strict regulatory control over domestic greenhouse gas emissions, while simultaneously declining to consider the climate-change impact of proposals to export enormous quantities of U.S. coal through ports in the Northwest.

Three proposed coal export facilities in the Northwest that are now undergoing environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would cumulatively more than match the total of 107 million tons of coal exported from the U.S. in 2011. The corps has declined to analyze the impact on climate change from the combustion of U.S. coal in Asia. EPA asked the corps to consider that impact, but the corps--after extensive consultation with the White House--declined .

“EPA did comment on the Army Corps project and the proposal,” McCarthy said. “We did recognize that there is a broader way of looking at those challenges and articulating the full impacts. We encouraged that to happen, and we'll let that go through the process that is an Army Corps process.”

Broader Impact Recognized

Pressed on how she can reconcile such inconsistency in Obama Administration policy, McCarthy said: “Right now, it's not my job to square those. It's my job to recognize what EPA has recognized, which is there is a broader impact here.”

At her side was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), whose administration will use state statutory authority to review the coal export projects for a very broad range of impacts .

“For those who are concerned about this issue, we've got peoples' backs on it in the state of Washington because we are going to evaluate the carbon dioxide, the carbon pollution associated with burning this coal wherever it is burned,” Inslee said.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at pshukovsky@bna.com

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

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