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EPA’s Clean Power Plan elicits strong responses

 

By RACHEL LANE

D.C. Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Public comments are still being accepted at the U.S. EPA about new carbon reduction guidelines, after public hearings in four cities last week.

Approximately 1,600 people commented about the Clean Power Plan during the two-day hearings in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh, People can continue to comment through email, fax or letter until the Oct. 16 deadline.

"We benefit from unprecedented outreach," said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator. "We want to get this rule right. We don’t have to sacrifice a healthy economy for a healthy environment."

She said the primary comment so far is that flexibility will be key in allowing states to determine how they will reduce their carbon footprints. States will be about to explore practical and affordable solutions by looking at power as a whole.

Some states are not waiting for the comment period to end, however, to protest the proposal. Last week, the state of Indiana announced it joined 11 other states in a lawsuit against the carbon dioxide regulations. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, charges the EPA does not have the legal authority to regulate existing sources of air pollution.

"The EPA’s recent action regulating carbon dioxide emissions shows a complete disregard for the rule of law and will harm Indiana ratepayers," said Gov. Mike Pence. "Congress has already rejected legislation that would put limits on carbon dioxide emissions, and a law of this significance should be passed by the legislative branch.

"The state of Indiana is determined to use every legal means at our disposal to prevent the EPA from overstepping its authority and costing Hoosier jobs."

In June, President Barack Obama announced plans for carbon reduction across the United States. His stated goal is to reduce emissions by 30 percent between 2005 and 2030, primarily from power plants. The EPA has been working with his standards and presented the Clean Power Plan. According to the suing states, the Clean Air Act prohibits the EPA from regulating emissions from existing sources under Section 111(d) if that source is already regulated under Section 112.

Power plants are already regulated under Section 112, so they allege EPA has no authority to regulate power plants under Section 111(d).

The lawsuit filed by Indiana, West Virginia, Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming asks the court to prohibit the EPA from finalizing its proposed rule.

The public hearings last week were the second stage of comments, after EPA officials met with state, industry and environmental leaders. The plan would also reduce soot and smog pollution by 25 percent by 2030. The economy should see an increase in green technologies and individuals should see improved health benefits as a result, according to EPA.

McCarthy said states are already working to meet and exceed the new standards. "Some benefits to the economy are overlooked ... Every time we have a new ruling, we get new technology," she said. "States have a proven track record ... and we can do this while keeping energy affordable."

She said states with heavy reliance on coal will still rely heavily on coal in the future. She added she has been paying attention to survey results and small-business owners understand climate change is an economic issue, while seven out of 10 Americans think it is a problem and want the EPA to act on it. "It’s our moral obligation … to hand our children a world we can be proud of," she said.

McCarthy said hearings have been well attended, with a number of concerns raised. "This is an opportunity for us to really look at the plan," she said.

Recently, some nuclear power plants have not applied for relicensing and she would like to receive more comments about why. "It’s important that we clarify (the nuclear power) issue and figure out what will be used in the future," she said.

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said many meetings have occurred between the EPA and regional groups to allow the EPA to directly hear and respond to concerns from states.

"There’s a wealth of opportunity for states to reduce carbon footprints," McCarthy said.

Carbon reduction is a global problem and needs a global solution. The United States is changing the tone of the conversation internationally, she said. "Conversations have already changed. Now, we are trying to figure out what to do with the changes. We know the U.S. needs to take serious action."

Public comments on the issue were accepted beginning June 2. More than 300,000 have rolled in from individuals, states and industry representatives. More information about the Clean Power Plan, and a chance to leave a comment for the EPA, can be found online at www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards

8/6/2014