Gina McCarthy says EPA can work with states voluntarily on carbon pollution

The U.S. Supreme Court order has resulted in a “pause in terms of the implementation and enforcement of the Clean Power Plan. But the rule is still in effect,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told the House Agriculture Committee on Feb. 11.

During the roughly three-hour hearing, McCarthy told the agriculture panel that EPA would not attempt to go around the courts when it comes to adverse rulings on the Clean Power Plan or the Waters of the United States rule.

At the same time, the EPA chief expressed confidence that the rules would ultimately be upheld. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order Feb. 9 that will “stay” implementation of the carbon reduction plan until a key legal challenge brought by states is considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The rule would have states draft plans to curb carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030. Such plans would have been due as soon as September.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) criticized EPA overreach on these rules.

“Do we need to restrict your funding” to ensure that EPA doesn’t try to implement the rules anyway, Conaway asked McCarthy.

“We are certainly going to respect the decisions of the court,” McCarthy replied.

“We will still continue to work with states that on a voluntary basis want to move forward with us “The courts will be winding through the process of looking through that rule,” McCarthy added.

“We are going to continue to address greenhouse gases through the authorities in the Clean Air Act that are available to us today.”

Conaway replied that he was a little troubled by McCarthy’s answer, adding that it is not clear that EPA has authority under Clean Air Act.

“On the Clean Power Plan, it is a pause in terms of the implementation and enforcement of the Clean Power Plan. But the rule is still in effect,” McCarthy said.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said rural utilities in his district might be forced to look to Canada because they cannot afford the Clean Power Plan capital investments on top of their existing capital expenditures to decrease criteria pollutants.

Peterson said that his district in Minnesota will be affected by whatever implementation plans are drafted by neighboring states. McCarthy clarified that no EPA action would be “implemented” under the Clean Power Plan while the stay is in place.

“This regulate first, ask questions later approach is starting to backfire on the EPA,” said the committee chairman, Conaway, citing the high court order on CPP.

A slew of committee members also pointed to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that said EPA was improperly using social media in a way that was tantamount to propaganda or lobbying. McCarthy said that she fiercely disagrees with the conclusions of the GAO report.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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