Members Question Obama EPA Administrator McCarthy Over Budget and Agenda

April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy today held a joint hearing to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request. Members questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on EPA’s budget request and a range of activities within the agency’s purview, including power plant regulations, ozone standards, superfund cleanups, and the implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) pressed Administrator McCarthy on the potentially devastating cost and reliability consequences of the agency’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants, which would require the use of carbon captures and storage (CCS) technologies that are not yet commercially viable. “Those people involved in the utility business tell us explicitly that they can’t build a new coal-fired power plant to meet these emissions standards. And I think America is being jeopardized by this kind of action,” said Whitfield.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) read McCarthy excerpts from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which limits EPA’s consideration of certain government-funded CCS projects when setting emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. Barton, the author of the law, expressed, “It is explicitly clear that in funding these demonstration projects – whatever their level of CO2 reduction is – that is not supposed to be used to set the new source performance standards. Yet when your agency put out the proposed regulation on those standards they referred to these projects – not one of which is in operation…” Watch the exchange HERE. The committee launched an investigation last month into EPA's decision-making process. 

Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) also expressed concern over EPA’s proposed and planned power plant rules, stating, “The worst of EPA’s regulatory agenda may be yet to come, especially with its greenhouse gas regulations for power plants. We have yet to see fully what EPA plans to propose for existing power plants, or the full impact on consumers’ electric bills and on employment. But if we allow this agenda to continue, we may well see higher costs, more jobs lost, and widespread problems.”

Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) questioned McCarthy about the agency’s implementation of TSCA and its ability to review and regulate chemicals. He asked whether the ability to prioritize chemicals would allow the agency to evaluate chemicals more effectively. “I think it is important,” said McCarthy. “TSCA provides us some authority, certainty not to address the issue as robustly as we would like … There has to be a better way for us to target our resources most effectively to protect public health.” Chairman Shimkus is the author of draft legislation, the Chemicals in Commerce Act, which would reform the law to create a commonsense prioritization and evaluation program for all existing chemicals in commerce. Chairman Shimkus urged McCarthy to work with the committee on the legislation, stating, “We hope you share our ambition and sincere desire to make this a collaborative process.”