EPA Will Continue Work on Carbon Rules; Says Efforts Shouldn't Be ‘Political Football'

By Anthony Adragna

Nov. 10 — The Environmental Protection Agency will continue work on its carbon pollution standards for power plants despite pledges from congressional Republicans to stop them and maintains the agency's regulatory efforts shouldn't be used as a “political football” on Capitol Hill, spokeswoman Liz Purchia told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 10.

“Moving forward, EPA will continue to carry out President Obama's directive to take real action on climate change, the most complex energy and environmental challenge we've ever faced, by reducing carbon pollution,” Purchia said in an e-mail. “Under the President's leadership, EPA is seizing that opportunity, while strengthening the economy and creating new jobs across the country.”

Purchia said a majority of Americans support the agency's efforts to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. The EPA estimates every dollar invested through the carbon pollution standards will return $7 in health benefits and says total climate and health benefits could hit $93 billion by 2030.

“Across the country, citizens want EPA to safeguard clean air and clean water, which are essential building blocks for a strong economy,” Purchia said. “We don't have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy, because the two go hand in hand.”

McConnell to Target EPA Rules

Those remarks come on the heels of comments from incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that reining in EPA regulations, especially the carbon pollution standards, would be his top priority as leader of the upper chamber Republicans.

McConnell on multiple occasions has pledged to target the regulations through standalone legislation and appropriations legislation.

EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants (RIN 2060-AR33), unveiled by the agency in June, would set state-specific emissions rates that would be administered by state and local air pollution officials. The agency believes the proposal would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels when fully in place in 2030 (79 Fed. Reg. 34,830).

McConnell believes the EPA proposal would cost thousands of coal jobs and impose overly burdensome requirements on businesses. The Kentucky Republican sees the appropriations process as the “best tool” to force Obama to compromise on regulations, although McConnell has acknowledged Obama probably would veto legislation targeting the centerpiece of his plan to address climate change.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), another member of Senate Republican leadership, joined with McConnell in planning to target EPA regulations, and his office told Bloomberg BNA last week he planned to attack forthcoming potential revisions to the national ozone standard through standalone legislation and the appropriations process.

Thune and House members have introduced the Clean Air, Strong Economies Act (S. 2833, H.R. 5505), which effectively would block revisions to the current ozone national ambient air quality standard of 75 parts per billion until 85 percent of current nonattainment counties comply with the existing standard. The EPA has agreed to review and, if necessary, propose revising the standard for ozone by Dec. 1.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

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