Most States On Track For EPA Power Plan, But Poison Pills Are the Focus

Update June 25: The House voted 247-180 to allow states to opt out of EPA power plant regulations, and to delay enforcement until all court challenges are resolved. They expect judges to rule against it so it will never go into effect. Obama promises to veto it.

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This will be a fun week for the GOP as they focus on undermining the EPA and its power plant regulations, in a bid to keep polluting the air and water.

The House will consider two bills that stop EPA from proceeding with the Clean Power Plan and both houses will hold hearings to show how it will destroy the economy and raise electric costs through the roof. 

In the House, Rep. Ed Whitfield’s (R-KY) bill (HR 2042) would let states opt-out of participating until court cases are decided, and even then they could cite economic concerns as a reason for noncompliance. Under the Clean Power Plan, if states do not submit their own plans, EPA does it for them, but Whitfield’s bill bars that.

Our air is a lot cleaner thanks to the EPA:Pollution

Like most EPA regulations – almost all of which end up in court –  lawsuits could tie up the plan for years. The bill is expected to pass easily with the Republican majority, but it could be more difficult in the Senate, where Democrats will filibuster it.

The other attack front is through appropriations, where besides cutting EPA’s budget another 9% – by $718 million – it would be barred from funding the Clean Power Plan (Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  

The EPA, Department of Interior, Forest Service, and related agencies would get $30.2 billion combined –  $246 million less than the previous bare-bone budget, and $3 billion below the president’s request.

Among the 24 poison pills attached are:

  • Prohibits EPA from implementing the "Waters of the United States" rules
  • Prohibits implementation of EPA’s update of smog rules, which EPA recently won in court
  • EPA can’t enforce regulations on lead paint
  • Prevents EPA from regulating lead ammunition and factory farms.
  • Blocks funding to regulate fracking on federal public land
  • The Fish and Wildlife Service can’t do anything to stop the illegal ivory trade.
  • Blocks Endangered Species Act listings for the sage grouse (gets in the way of oil and gas drilling) and even the long-eared bat (devastated by white-nose syndrome), and takes wolves off the list again in states where courts have reversed this decision
  • No inspection fees for oil and gas on public land and no grazing fees for ranchers that use public land
  • They give zero funding for the crucial Green Climate Fund, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and international programs related to climate change, such as the Clean Technology Fund.

    Most States on Track to Meet Clean Power Plan 2020 Benchmarks

    Meanwhile in reality world, 31 states are more than halfway toward meeting EPA’s 2020 goals for cutting carbon emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)after analyzing state policies such as renewable energy and efficiency standards and announced coal plant closures.

    "Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have claimed the emissions reduction requirements go too far too fast, and are therefore not achievable," says Ken Kimmell, president of UCS. "Our research shows this Chicken Little forecast is unfounded given that a majority of states are already more than halfway toward meeting their 2020 benchmarks with 14 even on track to exceed them."

    Of the 14 states on track to exceed their 2020 benchmarks, nine are RGGI states, three are among the nation’s most coal dependent states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.

    Nine states are more than 75% of the way there: Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington. And eight states are more than half way there: Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin.

    Six states involved in the lawsuit against the rules are close to or expected to surpass their 2020 benchmarks: Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

    "It defies logic and reason that states already demonstrating their ability to make significant cuts in carbon emissions would sue the agency claiming undue hardship," says Jeremy Richardson, senior energy analyst at UCS.. "These six states are doing a great job proving EPA’s case – that states can meet these new standards affordably and reliably, because they already have commitments in place to help them do so."

    Electricity Prices & Jobs

    According to the US Energy Information Agency, the Clean Power Plan will raise electricity prices by 3-7%, but that can mostly be made up through increased energy efficiency and conservation. It will also take another 90 GW of coal-fired production offline, more than twice than without the plan.

    The Clean Power Plan is expected to create about 360,000 jobs by 2020, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and job losses in the coal industry will be offset by renewable energy investments and productivity gains across the whole economy, including lower wholesale prices for electricity.

    "When we set ground rules to limit carbon pollution, we send a long-term market signal that propels innovation and investment in cleaner energy technologies, expanding new industries and creating good-paying jobs," says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It sends a long term market signal that gives companies and banks the certainty they need to accelerate investment in cutting-edge clean energy technologies."

    "Our low carbon future is inevitable. A clean energy transformation is already underway, and EPA’s Clean Power Plan will help accelerate ongoing progress," she adds.

    Let’s not forget that every regulation is opposed. In the 1980s, it was acid rain that was poisoning lakes and killing wildlife. EPA’s rules reduced those pollutants from power plants and turned the US into the world’s leading exporter of pollution control technology – worth $44 billion a year and creating 1.7 million jobs.

    There was also a fight over switching to unleaded gasoline, but in just a few decades, less than 1% of children have elevated lead levels in the blood, down from 88% when the rules were implemented.

    The Supreme Court will review regulations that cut mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants.

    Read our articles, Environmental Protection Agency Ranked Most Effective of All Federal Agencies and Give EPA Some Credit: US Has Cleaner Air.

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