Subcommittee Begins Oversight of EPA’s Power Plan

June 19, 2014

Questions for McCabe

The Energy and Power Subcommittee today will question EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe over the agency’s new proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Today’s hearing is just the beginning of the subcommittee’s oversight efforts to hold EPA accountable for serious questions about its legal authority, the ramifications of this plan for the nation’s energy sector, and the feasibility of its implementation. Below is a sampling of the questions members have for the agency about how this rule was written, how it will work, what it will cost, and what it will accomplish.

Does Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act specifically grant EPA authority to regulate existing power plants? If that authority exists, it has rarely been invoked; is it appropriate to use it now to seize control of the entire energy sector?

Where is EPA’s clear and specific grant of jurisdiction over intrastate electricity matters?

How does the proposed rule prevent the problem of stranded assets? In other words, what happens to coal plants that have made millions of dollars of investments to be compliant with other recent EPA rules, but may not be able to meet the requirements of this rule? Do utilities and consumers have to eat those costs?

In the proposed rule, EPA assumes a significant increase in the use of renewables and natural gas, which would require fundamental changes to transmission and distribution infrastructure. Has EPA consulted with the federal, state, and local authorities regarding whether these changes could be implemented under the timetables that EPA projects? How many state and federal permits are necessary to construct the additional pipelines?

The proposed rule assumes nuclear plants will continue to operate, including the 6 percent that EPA estimates are “at risk.” Does EPA have the legal authority to compel those plants to continue to operate?

According to the proposed rule, the average state will have to cut total electricity use between 9% and 12%. What authority does EPA have to require energy consumers to reduce their electricity consumption? Who is held liable if the efficiency goals aren’t met?  

What happens if energy prices substantially increase or the reliability of the grid is put at risk under the EPA's new rule and mandates? Will there be any off ramps for states and consumers?

How will the state implementation plans be enforced under EPA's proposal? Who can sue and be sued as a result of the proposed regulations? What is the universe of new litigation?

Why does EPA base its benefits analysis for the rule on international benefits when only Americans bear the cost of the rule?

Will this rule have any detectable impact on the future climate? For all the disruption it will impose on energy markets and consumers, state by state, what will be the impact on global greenhouse gas emissions? What will be the impact on global temperatures or sea levels?

To watch the hearing, click here