WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy took fire and praise from members of the U.S. Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee Tuesday. The committee heard from McCarthy and quizzed her on the EPA’s budget request for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
At the center of much of the discussion was the Clean Power Plan, which is currently under a stay from implementation by the United States Supreme Court. Still, despite the stay, McCarthy’s budget sought additional funding to continue working with states who are voluntarily continuing to work toward compliance with the new rule.
“There’s $25 million for the EPA to continue to develop tools and work with the states, but there’s also $25 million for the states themselves to move forward voluntarily,” said McCarthy.
U.S.Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) questioned why $50 million is budgeted for a rule which is in limbo in court, but the agency was overall seeking $223 million for work on the climate change.
“That’s $50 million, but you’re still at $185 million asking for appropriations for the center piece of this effort to the Clean Power Plant,” Capito said. “I would just register some concern that in fact it appears through your budget you’re moving forward with this even though there’s a stay on it.”
McCarthy shot back there are other efforts being pursued.
“Only those two are directly related to the Clean Power Plan,” McCarthy said. “The rest is identified as opportunities in vehicle emissions, our Energy Star program, and our methane reduction initiatives.”
The last of those, methane reduction, is a fairly new plane for the agency. Until now most regulation of methane came at the state level. Capito challenged states were doing a pretty good job on that all along, a point McCarthy could not refute in some instances, but added there were areas of concern.
“There are some states having challenges in this regard,” she said. “What we’ve identified there are many more methane emissions in the oil and gas sector than we had previously understood. We are actually putting out an information collection request to provide us a level of data so we can identify where state’s can improve.’
Although stayed by the Supreme Court, McCarthy continued to draw fire from Senators in energy states where the Clean Power Plan will hit hardest.
“Based on your quote of April 13th, you’re saying you’re not responsible for the loss of even one job in the coal industry,” asked Senator John Barrasso (R-WY).
“Sir that’s not what my quote said,” McCarthy responded. “What I would indicate is that the energy system has been shifting since the 80’s and it’s time to work with those communities and individuals so that we make sure everybody in the United States has an opportunity to live well.”
Barrasso challenged the EPA’s requirement to study the economic impact of a new rule was given limited attention as the administration forged ahead with its climate change agenda. Sen. Sheldon Whitehorse (D-RI) reacted to Barrasso’s’ allegation and said it was unfair to give attention to the impact of EPA rules in coal country and not giving attention to the economic impact of climate change on his state.