U.S.-China deal won’t change the Clean Power Plan — McCarthy

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporte • Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2014

U.S. EPA won’t tighten its greenhouse gas rulemakings to meet President Obama’s new climate commitments, Administrator Gina McCarthy said today.

Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored event, she said emissions targets that Obama unveiled in Beijing last week wouldn’t force EPA to revamp its proposal for power plants. The draft adheres to the Clean Air Act, she said, and is based on an assessment of the best system of emissions reduction for the sources it covers.

“We’re implementing the individual rules and efforts under the Climate Action Plan, including the Clean Power Plan, in a way that’s consistent with the underlying [laws],” McCarthy said. “We are doing it in a consistent way in each and every rule. Not in a way where we let our end goal on climate intervene in a way that’s inappropriate.”

Obama promised last week the U.S. would cut its emissions by between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025. EPA’s Clean Power Plan would reduce power-sector emissions by 30 percent by 2030, but some observers have said the electricity sector will have to contribute more reductions because it is decarbonizing more quickly than the rest of the economy (Greenwire, Nov. 12).

No individual policy would be the “lynchpin” in achieving the promised reductions, McCarthy said.

“The interagency effort has been looking at what is reasonable to achieve under a variety of the efforts under the Climate Action Plan,” she said, referring to the climate blueprint Obama released last year. “They’re also looking at what other rules and voluntary efforts might be appropriate to consider in this time frame.”

Environmentalists have urged EPA to promulgate Clean Air Act restrictions for methane, and McCarthy said again today that a decision would be announced this fall. EPA is weighing both mandatory and voluntary approaches to methane reduction together with other departments.

“Where that ends in terms of which rule is going to be relied on more heavily is still being analyzed, but we feel like we can make significant, cost-effective reductions,” she said. “And we’re going to aggressively go after them.”

She also hinted the administration would count private-sector reductions toward the 2025 goal, whether they’re voluntary or in response to regulations.

The so-called Clean Power Plan will be a primary target for Republican House and Senate majorities beginning in January, and the soon-to-be Senate majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has made it clear he plans to hamstring the rule using Congress’ “power of the purse.”

McCarthy said Obama would resist these efforts to dismantle his second-term agenda.

“I feel very confident that the president has the best interests of the EPA in mind, and he’s made very clear what his priorities are,” she said. “I feel very well supported in everything that we’re doing.”

The public comment period on the power plant draft will close Dec. 1.

“The people that we regulate and our stakeholders are paying very close attention to what EPA is doing,” McCarthy said. “There is no one banking on us getting stopped.”

And she offered EPA’s notice of data availability — which the agency released late last month to ask for comment on proposed changes sought by state and industry stakeholders — as evidence that EPA is also listening to the regulated community. Some of the proposed tweaks would reduce states’ early responsibilities under the rule (Greenwire, Nov. 7).

But while EPA will not change its rules to fit Obama’s pledge, she called the White House targets “historic.” And China’s own commitment to cap its growing emissions by no later than 2030 is also “a significant step forward”, McCarthy said, given the size of its economy and its heavy reliance on coal. China’s goal will require immediate action to expand its renewable energy and efficiency capacities, she said.