State Officials Question Clean Power Plan Approach

By Anthony Adragna

Sept. 11 — The Environmental Protection Agency cannot show any quantifiable climate change gains from its Clean Power Plan, and it overly relied on health benefits from other pollutant reductions to make a case for the regulation, Texas and Ohio officials told a House subcommittee Sept. 11.

Craig Butler, director of Ohio's EPA, called on the federal EPA to re-release its Clean Power Plan as a proposed rule to allow it to incorporate feedback from various entities. Absent that, the federal agency should stay implementation of the final rule until all litigation is exhausted, he said.

“The EPA has not given states, especially Texas, nearly enough time to formulate and submit a state plan,” Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, told the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment. “And all this when even the EPA acknowledges that this rule will not have a single discernible impact on climate change or sea level rise.”

Both states have said they will pursue administrative and legal challenges to the final rule (RIN 2060-AR33), which has not yet been formally published in the Federal Register. The regulation sets unique carbon dioxide emissions rates or, alternatively, mass-based targets for the power sector in each state. State regulators will be tasked with developing plans to meet the targets, which will be phased in between 2022 and 2030.

One such lawsuit, which Ohio participated in, was thrown out of a federal appeals court Sept. 9 as premature.

“It seems if you give them an inch, the EPA will take a mile,” Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said. “I hope we, as a Congress, can do something about this final rule.”

Oregon Official Disagrees 

The lone witness supportive of the regulation—Jason Eisdorfer, utility program director of the Oregon Public Utility Commission—said his state was in a “strong position” to comply with the plan and said Oregon was in ongoing discussions with other western states about possible collaboration.

Eisdorfer said the Clean Power Plan represented “a good first step in addressing climate change” and said earlier investments made by Oregon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would help the state meet its reductions targets in the rule.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), the subcommittee's ranking member, echoed those comments and said Eisdorfer's perspective crucially showed many states support President Barack Obama's approach to address climate change.

“I'm glad the title of the hearing is state perspectives, plural, because there are multiple perspectives,” Bonamici said. “Inaction is unacceptable.”

Concern Over Jobs, Feasibility 

Both Ohio and Texas, though, said their perspective was that the regulation would harm their economies, make electricity less reliable and cost thousands of jobs for little more than public health benefits already garnered through other EPA regulations.

The Obama administration believes the regulation will improve its negotiating position as it seeks to reach an international climate change agreement later this year in Paris and uses that as a primary justification for the rulemaking, Shaw said.

Butler also faulted the EPA for what he described as a lack of adequate outreach in shaping the final regulation.

“The administrator often talks about the unprecedented outreach that was done,” Butler said. “Ultimately, I think they're continuing down the strategy that they had all along.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at

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