Tuesday, February 23, 2010

EPA Responds To Senate Dems Call To Stop EPA GHG Regs

Feb 22: Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, lead a group of coal state Senators in sending a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson challenging EPA's potential regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. The letter requests that Administrator Jackson clarify the EPA timetable and suspend EPA regulations for industrial facilities so Congress can consider comprehensive energy and climate legislation. According to a release from Senator Rockefeller, "EPA regulation of GHGs from stationary sources has far-reaching implications for the economy as a whole and the energy sector in particular.  These affected industrial facilities are significant job generators in coal states, including West Virginia, and can ill-afford ad hoc regulations."

    Senator Rockefeller was joined by Senate Democrats Mark Begich (AK), Sherrod Brown (OH), Carl Levin (MI), Bob Casey Jr. (PA), Robert Byrd (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Max Baucus (MT) in sending the letter, demanding a response to their concerns for the workers and industries affected in their states. Senator Rockefeller said, "At a time when so many people are hurting, we need to put the decisions about our energy future in to the hands of the people and their elected representatives -- especially on issues impacting clean coal. EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency." Senator Rockefeller indicated that he is drafting legislation to suspend EPA's regulatory authority to allow sufficient time for Congressional consideration of the nation's larger energy policy and economic needs.

    The letter begins, "We write with serious economic and energy concerns relating to the potential regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. Ill-time or imprudent regulation of GHGs may squander critical opportunities for our nation, impeding the investment necessary to create jobs and position our nation to develop and produce its own clean energy. We need a clear understanding of how you view your agency's responsibilities and the processes by which you intend to carry them out in order to represent the workers, industries, taxpayers, and economic interests or our states. . ."
    The letter continues, "We remain concerned about the possible impacts on American workers and businesses in a number of industrial sectors, along with the farmers, miners, and small business owners who could be affected as your agency moves beyond automobile emissions standards to implement regulations to curtail GHG pollution from stationary sources. . . We have a responsibility to the workers and industries in our states to address both your agency's timetable for the implementation of these stationary source regulations, and what you intend the exact requirements for businesses to be. . ."  
    The letter concludes, "The President and you have been explicit in calling on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation that would enhance our nation's energy and climate security.  We strongly believe this is ultimately Congress' responsibility, and if done properly, will create jobs, spur new clean energy industries, and greatly advance the goal of U.S. energy independence.   If done improperly, these opportunities could be lost."
    On February 22, Administrator Jackson responded to the Senators and issued a news release and copy of the letter. In the release, EPA said the Administrator outlines several of the decisions she has made for 2010-2011 including: (1) "No facility will be required to address greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permitting of new construction or modifications before 2011. (2) For the first half of 2011, only facilities that already must apply for Clean Air Act permits as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions will need to address their greenhouse gas emissions in their permit applications.

    "(3) EPA is also considering a modification to the rule announced in September requiring large facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year to obtain permits demonstrating they are using the best practices and technologies to minimize GHG emissions. EPA is considering raising that threshold substantially to reflect input provided during the public comment process. (4) EPA does not intend to subject smaller facilities to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse gas emissions any sooner than 2016."

    Regarding a question posed by the Senators about the result of passage of Senator Murkowski's resolution of disapproval of EPA's endangerment finding, Jackson responded, "One result would be to prevent EPA from issuing its greenhouse gas standard for light-duty vehicles, because the endangerment finding is a legal prerequisite of that standard. The impacts of that result would be significant. In particular, it would undo an historic agreement among states, automakers, the federal government, and other stakeholders. California and at least thirteen other states that have adopted California's emissions likely would enforce those standards within their jurisdictions, leaving the automobile industry without the explicit nationwide uniformity that it has described as important to its business." Jackson went on to say that EPA is planning to issue greenhouse-gas emissions standards for Model Year 2012-2016 light-duty vehicles late next month."
    Jackson also concluded that enactment of Senator Murkowski's resolution "would be viewed as a vote to reject the scientific work of the thirteen U.S. government departments that contribute to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It also would be viewed by many as a vote to move the United States to a position behind that of China on the issue of climate change, and more in line with the position of Saudi Arabia." Jackson also said that she believes that any legal challenges to the so-called "tailoring rule" will fail.
    Following the EPA response, Senator Rockefeller issued a statement saying, "I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation in to the future -- this is good progress but I am concerned it may not go far enough. I believe we need to set in stone through legislation enough time for Congress to consider a comprehensive energy bill. EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications on clean coal state economies and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency. We cannot gamble on our future especially at a time when so many people are hurting. As I evaluate the EPA's letter, I remain committed to presenting legislation that would provide Congress the space it needs to craft a workable policy that will protect jobs and stimulate the economy."
    Access a release from Senator Rockefeller (click here). Access the complete letter from the Senators (click here). Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the 6-page response letter from EPA (click here). Access the statement from Senator Rockefeller in response to EPA's response (click here).