Subcommittee Reviews EPA’s Unworkable Power Plant Proposal and Bipartisan Legislative Solution

November 14, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today held a hearing to discuss EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants and draft legislation authored by Chairman Whitfield and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). The bipartisan draft offers an alternative to these unworkable standards as well as EPA’s planned regulations for existing power plants. 

“The regulation at issue today, the proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants, may well be the most damaging one yet in the agency’s all-out attack on one of our nation’s most affordable, reliable energy sources, coal,” said Whitfield.

Whitfield and Manchin authored their legislation in response to EPA’s proposed regulation that would require new coal plants to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that are not yet commercially viable, effectively banning new coal-fired generation in the United States. The legislation allows coal to remain part of America’s energy mix, requiring EPA to set standards for new plants that are actually achievable and based on proven technologies. It also provides that Congress set the effective date for EPA’s planned greenhouse gas rules for existing plants.

“Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation is a part of a national discussion about our energy future and the proper role of regulatory bodies like the EPA,” said Manchin. “It is just common sense that regulations are based on what is technologically possible at the time they are proposed. With regulations, if they aren’t feasible, they aren’t reasonable.”

Members of the subcommittee pressed EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe on the feasibility of CCS technology that would be required to meet the agency’s proposed standards. McCabe suggested that four plants using the technology are currently under construction or planned, but she conceded that none have reached completion and all the projects have received significant government funding. Later, engineering consultant Edward Cichanowicz testified on the second panel that, “At present, the technology is not commercially proven to allow broad application in the U.S.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt discussed states’ concerns over EPA's expansive regulatory efforts being undertaken under the guise of the Clean Air Act. Pruitt, along with the attorneys general of 16 other states and one senior environmental regulator, recently submitted a white paper to EPA outlining concerns with EPA’s failure to properly defer to state authority under the Clean Air Act, and the implications of the agency’s planned power plant rules. Pruitt reiterated these concerns in his testimony today, stating, “The elimination of coal-based electric generation – which according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration is projected to provide 40 percent of U.S. electricity in 2014 – would result in higher electricity prices for ratepayers, and would be detrimental to the national and state economies, as well as job-creation in general. No doubt, increased electricity prices will hurt the competitiveness of American manufacturing.”

Tony Campbell, President and CEO of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, explained the importance of coal-fired generation to providing affordable and reliable electricity to consumers and businesses. He lent his support to the Whitfield-Manchin solution, saying, “This bipartisan bill is badly needed to ensure EPA does not promulgate a rule that jeopardizes the country’s energy future, puts electricity reliability at risk, and severely harms the economy.”

“The bill would give manufacturers regulatory certainty by preserving a true ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy,” added Ross Eisenberg, Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

Chairman Whitfield concluded, “Prior to the Obama administration, the EPA and states had a decades-long history of regulating coal in ways that reduced emissions without abandoning this vital energy source. And I believe that Sen. Manchin and I have tapped into that tradition of realistic and achievable regulation with our draft legislation. Our bipartisan and bicameral proposal is the commonsense way to ensure that any greenhouse gas regulations for power plants going forward are achievable.”

Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “I would like to applaud both Chairman Whitfield and Senator Manchin for their efforts in authoring a workable bipartisan and bicameral alternative to EPA’s proposed rule. Their proposal is a good faith effort that requires a critical check on EPA’s misuse of the Clean Air Act to try to accomplish through regulation what was rejected in Congress through legislation. Their approach does not prohibit the EPA from setting a standard for new sources, but focuses on setting standards that have been adequately demonstrated at geographically diverse locations around the country, a key ingredient missing from EPA’s regulatory proposal.”

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