Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy promised to give states flexibility when reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, a key part of President Obama’s climate plan. However, states doubt the EPA will be so generous.
“We are skeptical that this is anything more than window dressing,” Brian Gottstein, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
On Monday, McCarthy told an audience at the liberal Center for American Progress that the EPA will be “really flexible on the implementation” of carbon dioxide emissions limits for existing power plants, which the agency is supposed to do in coordination with the states.
“Given the EPA’s history in such areas, states like Oklahoma remain skeptical of any assurances from the EPA that states will be given flexibility in meeting new emission standards for power plants,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told TheDCNF in a statement.
Coal-reliant states, including Oklahoma and Virginia, have found that the agency has been less flexible with states when implementing past air quality regulations. States worry that this could be yet another avenue for the federal agencies to strip them of their ability to set environmental standards.
“There’s a great deal of frustration among the states with the EPA’s attitude that ignores the proper role of the states in implementing environmental policy and regulations,” Pruitt said. “In many instances, including the Regional Haze rule and proposed rule for greenhouse gases, the EPA has attempted to expand its authority with a mind set that states are merely a vessel to implement whatever regulations the Administration sees fit, regardless of the wisdom, cost or efficiency of such measures.”
EPA’s Regional Haze program requires states to develop plans to improve air visibility over national parks and monuments which can be impaired by a wide variety of sources, like dust and soot. This program is purely for aesthetics and has nothing to do with public health.
However, the EPA has increasingly been using its Regional Haze authority to deny state implementation plans and replace them with federal ones. The agency has also the haze issue to impose costly requirements on coal-fired power plants in the Western U.S. this has led some states to question McCarthy’s commitment to state autonomy when setting carbon emissions limits.
“When push comes to shove, we are doubtful the administration will allow any real flexibility from the states,” Gottstein added. “However, we will be happy to be proven wrong.”