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Feb. 23 — States should approach the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan as an opportunity for flexible investments in the best energy mixes for their states rather than pre-judge the proposed rule as one that will harm their economies and cost jobs, Administrator Gina McCarthy told several skeptical governors Feb. 22.
McCarthy, speaking at the 2015 National Governors Association meeting, told skeptics like Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) the proposed carbon pollution limits for power plants would not significantly increase energy costs and would preserve a role for all energy fuel sources, including coal.
“Because we’ve provided so much flexibility, every state gets to dictate for themselves,” McCarthy said. “I don’t believe that any state was asked to do more than they could in a very cost-effective way.”
Governors on the panel peppered McCarthy with questions on a number of controversial regulations, including the proposed carbon pollution limits for power plants (RIN 2060-AR33), proposed revisions to Clean Water Act jurisdiction (RIN 2040-AF30) and the renewable fuel standard, the rulemaking for which is experiencing ongoing delays.. The Clean Power Plan, though, was chief among the concerns of the state leaders.
In June 2014, the EPA issued the first-ever national standards that would set a unique carbon dioxide emissions rate for the power sector in each state (79 Fed. Reg. 34,959). The proposal includes interim emissions rate targets to be met between 2020 and 2029 and a final goal for each state that applies beginning in 2030.
Several other governors, including Govs. Daniel Malloy (D-Conn.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), expressed support for the efforts of President Barack Obama's administration to curb carbon emissions and fight climate change.
Preserving affordable and reliable energy would be among the EPA's chief goals in its final rule, McCarthy said. Coal would remain “quite a significant part” of the nation's energy mix in 2030, McCarthy said in response to a question from Mead, whose home state is by far the largest coal producer in the U.S. Wyoming produced 39.4 percent of all U.S. coal in 2013, according to the National Mining Association.
“Any plan we do should accommodate the use of all energy sources and leave it up to the states in the market to determine what quantity,” McCarthy said. “We see coal as being quite a significant part of the energy mix in 2030 and we see natural gas as a significant part of the energy mix, and we certainly see a growing investment in renewables.”
McCarthy said Feb. 17 that the agency is open to modifying interim targets for each state to reduce its carbon emissions. Multiple states have said the interim goals are far too aggressive and rely on timeframes that are not feasible.
Embracing the flexibility built into the regulatory structure will enable states to develop the best approach for their individual needs, McCarthy said. States should also recognize there are already costs being imposed on them due to climate change, she said.
“A state that is willing to use the flexibility the optimum way that we have provided could find a way to make this enormously beneficial to their state from an economic development perspective and from a job growth perspective,” McCarthy said. “I do believe that people should be recognizing that the climate is changing, and there are costs associated with that already.”
Also during the panel discussion, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) expressed serious reservations over the EPA's proposed waters of the U.S. regulation, which would bring under federal jurisdiction all tributaries of streams, lakes, ponds and impoundments as well as wetlands that affect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of larger, navigable downstream waters (79 Fed. Reg. 22,188).
“When I go back to North Dakota, people will not ask me if I had a chance to meet with the president, they will ask me if I met with the administrator of the EPA,” Dalrymple said. “This notion that somehow you, as EPA, would need to be in charge of every little spot—really is just not commonsense. The people of North Dakota, especially the farmers, when they hear that this is what is being proposed, they really react to that. They really just of sort of feel that it makes no sense whatsoever.”
McCarthy acknowledged the agency needs to significantly clarify the intention of the regulation and work on the language in its final rule.
“If I never hear the word ditch again, it would be such a happy day for me,” McCarthy said. “It is one of the issues that we really need to resolve in this final rule.”
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Video of McCarthy's appearance at the National Governors Association is available at http://cs.pn/18gqMNv.
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