Agency asks for comments, gets an earful on climate

Source: Niina Heikkinen, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Green groups yesterday swamped U.S. EPA phone lines urging the agency to keep climate and pollution protections on the books.

The comments were solicited as part of a three-hour call-in session hosted by EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation aimed at airing public views about whether the agency should reform or review regulations.

Many urged EPA to preserve the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan rule to rein in power plant emissions and methane regulations on the oil and gas industry. The comments echoed those posted on the federal government’s regulations.govwebsite, which so far have overwhelmingly called for the agency to maintain or strengthen rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants (Climatewire, April 24).

EPA officials did not answer questions on the call.

Anne Gobin, head of the Bureau of Air Management at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said EPA should maintain funding to states to help limit air pollution and continue on a path toward cleaner air. Gobin also said EPA is not adequately enforcing the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, which requires both the agency and states to curtail pollution that affects downwind states like Connecticut.

“Although we’ve made great progress, our air is not clean,” she said.

Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project called methane pollution a “grave threat to the globe” and called on EPA to keep its methane regulations of the oil and gas industry on the books.

“Any attempted rollbacks would be nothing less than a payoff to oil and gas companies for their support,” she said.

A few callers requested that EPA consider the costs to public health and climate change when considering whether to rescind its previous rulemaking.

“The EPA administrator has publicly and with impunity contradicted the basic understanding of the Clean Power Plan. This is unacceptable; EPA cannot make policy based on fiction,” one caller said.

Industry members, meanwhile, critiqued Obama-era climate regulations and encouraged EPA to review regulations.

Howard Feldman, senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, said API was “encouraged” by EPA’s decision to review the New Source Performance Standards on the oil and gas industry, aimed at controlling methane emissions. He credited the oil and gas industry with burning cleaner transportation fuels.

“We agree there are a number of regulations that offer little or no consumer protection; specifically, we believe several fuel regulations are ripe for significant modification,” said Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

He encouraged the agency to embrace higher ethanol blends, like E15, which he said has unnecessary regulatory restrictions that have limited its sale nationwide.

“We believe this could be fixed with a simple administrative action,” Cooper said.