McCabe defends EPA outreach on rules for existing power plants

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013

U.S. EPA’s acting air chief shot back Friday at critics who have accused the agency of avoiding coal country when gathering input on a forthcoming carbon dioxide rule for existing power plants.

Janet McCabe wrote in a blog post that the agency is “conducting unprecedented and vigorous outreach and public engagement with key stakeholders and the general public” ahead of proposing its guidance in June to curb CO2 from today’s power fleet.

Her comments came as a group of Republican senators spearheaded by Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) on Friday released a letter they had sent reiterating their concerns.

But McCabe said the agency’s outreach has been widespread.

“In preparing the guidelines for existing power plants, EPA leadership, including Administrator [Gina] McCarthy, has been meeting with industry leaders and CEOs from the coal, oil, and natural gas sectors,” she wrote. “We’ve been working with everyone from governors, mayors, Members of Congress, state and local government officials — from every region of the country — to environmental groups, health organizations, faith groups, and many others.”

The agency is in the midst of holding 11 public listening sessions at EPA headquarters around the country, but critics have noted that most will take place in states that are less reliant on coal-fired generation. They have proposed that EPA add listening sessions in states like West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming where coal-fired generation plays a larger role in the local economy.

McCarthy has met with top officials in Kentucky to discuss the upcoming rule, and has pledged to do the same in West Virginia and elsewhere.

“We’re doing this because we know that carbon pollution guidelines for existing power plants require flexibility and sensitivity to state and regional differences,” McCabe wrote. “We want to be open to any and all information about what is important to each state and stakeholders.”

But the Republican senators’ letter again asked her to schedule coal-state listening sessions.

“As your regulations will likely have a significant negative impact on the use and development of coal, and the livelihoods and energy bills for folks across rural America, it only makes sense that you should actually go to the areas that will be most impacted by your policies,” they wrote.

EPA has yet to say how it plans to structure the guidance on existing power plants, but some coal-reliant states have said it may or may not have an ill effect on their economies depending on how much flexibility the agency affords to states.

Barrasso was joined in the letter by GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), John Boozman (Ariz.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Toomey (Penn.) and David Vitter (La.).