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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2014

EPA chief defends limits on carbon emissions

GOP senators attack proposed pollution rules


WASHINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday defended administration efforts to reduce pollution during her first Congressional appearance since the President announced his plan to regulate carbon emissions for the first time ever.

Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee attacked the EPA’s proposed carbon rules as extreme, expensive, and expansive.

It amounts to a federal takeover of the energy industry, said Louisiana Republican David Vitter.

Ms. McCarthy countered that the proposed rule is flexible and that it will create jobs in the clean energy sector and ultimately reduce energy costs and increase utility company profits by forcing them to be more efficient.

“This is about investing in [technologies] that people care about, investing in things that people will make money on. The regulated community grumbles during the process but it figures out how to make money the great old American way,” she testified. “This proposal is designed to be moderate … in terms of what’s practical and affordable.”

Republicans don’t think so, particularly those from coal country, who say the proposed rule will be so expensive to comply with that power plants will be shuttered.

“This rule will end up with the United States looking like Germany, where the poor and the business community alike will end up reeling from electricity prices,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), a frequent defender of the coal industry.

Ms. McCarthy said energy costs don’t have to increase.

“What we’re projecting is that people will see a lowering of their energy bill,” she said. “There’s two ways to get [emissions] reductions in fossil fuel facilities: You can run them less or you can make them more efficient when they run.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) said Republicans need to look at “both sides of the ledger” to decide whether the cost of compliance is worth the health and environmental benefits.

“They can’t just look at the interests of the coal business. They need to look at this more broadly, and there are a lot of us on the side of the equation where coal really is a harm,” he said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) said such regulations should not be made unilaterally by the administration.

“These are huge economically impactful regulations that you’re putting out that we don’t get to vote on, that the American people aren’t given a voice on,” he said. “We’re concerned about the problem that you’re concerned about: trying to make the environment as healthy as possible, but we have to ask ‘What is the real world impact?’ ”

The proposed rule provides a pathway to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent. To do that, it would set individual targets for different states.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Tracie Mauriello is the Washington bureau chief for the Post-Gazette.

Contact her at: tmauriello@post-gazette.com or 703-996-9292.

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