Better estimate of pollutant regulation costs needed, Senate chairman says

By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 1, 2001 — The Bush administration has yet to prove tougher emission standards would hurt power plants and refineries, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said Thursday.

Chairman Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) said recent analyses by the Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency don’t support the argument that policymakers should wait to consider carbon dioxide (CO2) emission standards.

“Unfortunately, both analyses fail to address perhaps the most fundamental matter: what are the costs of full implementation of the existing statutory and regulatory requirements, including the mercury rule and fine particulate standard?” Jeffords said. Jeffords received testimony from the Bush administration and state governments on S. 556, the Clean Power Act.

Both agencies warned electricity prices would be higher if Jeffords’s plan became law. The White House opposes the legislation.

EPA did not offer specific price estimates; EIA said the average retail price in 2020 could be 33% higher than what the agency would normally anticipate if S. 556 was law.

Jeffords legislation would cut power plant emissions of four major pollutants, including CO2 nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Jeffords said he plans to introduce more legislation that caps carbon emissions in other sectors. US oil companies say they fear they could be a target of future legislation that puts them at a competitive disadvantage to foreign competitors.

The White House says it supports a “multipollutant” emission strategy but has resisted calls to place caps on the “greenhouse gas” CO2. President George W. Bush says he is worried CO2 caps proposed as part of the United Nations’ Kyoto treaty may be too expensive a burden for US business.

Environmental groups and multinational companies that have already made investments in clean energy say mandatory standards are needed to protect existing capital and to ensure the US respects earlier international commitments to greenhouse gas reductions.

Jeffords argues CO2 controls could be put in place that make economic sense and help reduce climate change. But the time for delay is over, he said.

“If we don’t swiftly and radically change our behavior, Boston’s weather will probably become much more like Richmond’s within the next 50 years,” he said.

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