Speculation on legal challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency's power plant rule to control carbon dioxide emissions was the subject of the top Energy and Climate Report story for the week ending May 2, followed by one covering remarks by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy against those that question the science agency rulemakings.
Other stories making the top five list covered assertions by a co-author of an international climate report that political leaders exerted pressure to moderate the report's findings, claims by a senator that the EPA's timing of its proposed power plant rule was politically motivated and a White House adviser saying the U.S. is likely to leave much fossil fuel in the ground.
1. Opponents Look Beyond Clean Air Act to Challenge EPAs Power Plant Rule
Opponents of the EPA's proposed rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, as covered in an April 30 story, are looking beyond the Clean Air Act to the Energy Policy Act and the Data Quality Act to challenge the agency's regulation.
Critics of the proposed rule say it violates the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which bars the EPA from issuing any performance standards that require carbon capture based solely on the performance of demonstration projects funded by the Energy Department.
In addition, opponents have questioned whether studies the EPA used to justify the availability of carbon capture systems have been adequately peer reviewed, possibly a violation of the Data Quality Act.
2. McCarthy Defends Scientific Work Against Manufactured Attempts to Undermine It
As detailed in this story, EPA's McCarthy pushed back against what she described as “manufactured” attempts by individuals with political or business motivations to undermine scientific work undertaken by the agency and scientific bodies.
McCarthy, speaking April 28 at the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting, also said there had been attempts to “manufacture uncertainties” surrounding the science behind climate change in an effort to halt attempts to address it, which she said is the “biggest danger of all.”
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), among the EPA's staunchest critics, slammed McCarthy's speech for ignoring the "big-picture" some in Congress have on how the agency conducts scientific research and ensures adequate transparency of its findings.
3. Co-Author Says Governments Felt Free to Insist on Changes to IPCC Climate Report
As covered in this story, a lead author of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report took aim at what he said was intense pressure from political leaders to moderate the scientific report's findings in the final hours before its release April 13 in Berlin.
“I was surprised by the degree to which governments felt free to recommend and sometimes insist on detailed changes” to the IPCC's Working Group III report, Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University's Environmental Economics Program, wrote in an April 25 blog post.
The report concluded that the worst impacts of climate change could still be averted. But it warned that greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase more rapidly this century than the IPCC had previously projected and suggested action over the next 15 years is critical to avoid far more expensive options in the coming decades
4. EPA Put Off Forwarding Power Plant Rule Last Fall With Eye on Midterms, Inhofe Says
Remarks by Republican Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) are covered in this story in which he said the EPA held off on forwarding to the Federal Register its proposed rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants for more than two months in late 2013. He said the move was “clearly premeditated” to ensure the rules couldn't be finalized until after the fall elections.
Inhofe and other Republicans launched similar accusations at a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing in January, when EPA's McCarthy denied the delay was due to political motivations.
McCarthy, who highlighted her signing of the proposed power plant rule at a September 2013 press event, told the senators that the subsequent delay—it was published four months later in January 2014—was due largely to last fall's government shutdown, which led to significant delays in the publication of many federal rules.
5. U.S. Likely to Leave Much Fossil Fuel in Ground, White House Science Adviser Says
The U.S. is likely to end up “leaving quite a lot of fossil fuels in the ground” in the long run, the president's science adviser said May 1, whose remarks are covered in this story.
John Holdren, who directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said alternatives to fossil fuels, along with technologies that capture and store the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels, “are improving at a very rapid rate.”
“I think their share will increase in a way that will enable us not to be pushed to exploit the vast quantities of fossil fuels that are still in the ground,” such as “oil shale, tar sands and much more,” he told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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