WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Wednesday coal will still play a sizeable role in the nation’s power generation capacity even if newly proposed emission regulations for existing power plants are enacted.
“If you look at our analysis, it shows coal in 2012 actually generated about 37 percent of the electricity,” McCarthy testified. “What we’re projecting is in 2030, that’s going to be about 30 percent.”
McCarthy defended Obama Administration proposals aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. She insisted the only regulation set in stone is the lowering of the emission standard, any other part of the proposal was only suggested ways for states to achieve the new standards. She claimed before the committee the plan offered broad flexibility to each state on how to achieve the goal of reducing emissions in power generation.
“We think heavily dependent coal states will invest in coal,” McCarthy said. “They will most likely not take advantage of a shifting to lower sources and they won’t need to.”
McCarthy suggested the rules would prompt more research and technology development for fossil fuels to burn more cleanly and more efficiently.
McCarthy’s remarks were warmly embraced by Democrat members of the panel, including Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA). However, the Republicans were less inclined to buy the administrator’s defense. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) raised the argument recently leveled in a lawsuit by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey that the EPA cannot enforce the proposed rules since power plants are already regulated in another section of the EPA regulations.
“Does EPA impose regulations on existing coal fired power plants under section 112?” Wicker asked.
“We certainly do,” McCarthy responded.
“Based on that, the Attorney General of West Virginia says having been regulated under section 112, the EPA lacks the authority to further regulate these under EPA Section 1-d.” added Wicker.
“I don’t think the legal argument is properly framed,” McCarty said.
McCarthy suggested the agency went out of its way to include the comments and input of all stakeholders into the proposed rules. McCarthy told lawmakers the science on global warming is no longer debatable in the face of mounting evidence. In response to one question McCarthy said catastrophic storms are already the product of global warming.
“When people ask me about the polar vortex, some pose it as a reason not to take action,” McCarthy said. “It is exactly the reason we have to take action.”
Senators also raised issues with the cost benefit analysis of the proposed rules. McCarthy said the impact they studied were global and national analysis and there had been no state-by-state analysis done. She defended the lack of the state-by-state data and said the impact will depend greatly on what decisions individual states make to reach the emission reduction requirements by the deadline.