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A crude oil train sits parked outside the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery owned by the Carlyle Group in south Philadelphia March 20, 2014. (REUTERS/David M. Parrott) A crude oil train sits parked outside the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery owned by the Carlyle Group in south Philadelphia March 20, 2014. (REUTERS/David M. Parrott)  

Industries Unite To Warn That The EPA Seeks To ‘Dictate Energy Policy’

Energy producers are worried that the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon dioxide emissions limits are a way for the executive branch to effectively exert unilateral control over U.S. energy policy.

It’s not just the coal industry that is worried about EPA policies. Oil and natural gas producers and refiners have also expressed concern that regulating emissions will erode U.S. competitiveness and harm domestic industry.

“The EPA is not only regulating emissions, it is now involving itself in setting an energy policy that does not support an all-of-the-above approach to our nation’s energy needs,” said Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).

AFPM filed comments with the EPA late on Friday, joining the multitude of comments from those critical of the EPA’s emissions limits. The refiner’s group filed their comments along with the American Petroleum Institute.

EPA rules would effectively ban coal-fired power plants from being built unless they utilize carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which has not been commercially proven. EPA critics argue that mandating CCS is a de facto ban on coal power and will cause electricity prices to skyrocket as coal provides 40 percent of the country’s power.

“Mandating the use of specific energy sources will only serve to drive up U.S. manufacturers” costs,” Drevna said. “Our nation is on the verge of a manufacturing renaissance, but this and other all-cost, little-to-no-benefit rules will threaten our tremendous opportunity, erode our competitive advantage and drive business overseas.”

The CCS mandate has been sharply criticized by federal lawmakers who say that the agency is violating the law by requiring technology that has not been “adequately demonstrated.” The Energy Policy Act of 2005 prohibits the EPA from mandating technology unless it is proven, but more importantly, the agency can’t point to government-funded projects as proof of readiness.

“EPA is recklessly rushing ahead,” said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith. “In this proposal, the EPA disregarded the law requiring independent scientific review; silenced its scientific advisors; denied review of carbon storage science; and adopted an energy policy that ignores technical and practical realities.”

Smith and fellow House Republicans filed a 1,300-page comment to the EPA, rebutting its carbon emissions rule because it “fundamentally obscures the state of technology and rejects sound energy policy.”

The EPA has so far, shown no sign of slowing down on its regulatory push to control carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The agency is set to propose emissions rules for existing power plants in June, which has many coal states worried.

It’s unclear how strict emissions limits for existing coal plants will be, and if Congress or the courts will act to curb the EPA’s authority to regulate those emissions. Preventing the Obama administration’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants would strike a huge blow to their climate agenda, which aims to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

President Obama’s most recent climate push came last week when he announced more support for solar power and energy efficiency programs.

“It will be good for the economy long term — and if we don’t, that will be bad for the economy,” Obama told an audience gathered at a California Wal-Mart. “Rising sea levels, drought, more wildfires, more severe storms — those are bad for the economy.”

“So we can’t afford to wait,” he added. “And there’s no reason why we can’t even go further than we are so far by working with states and utilities, and other organizations to change the way we power our economy. Climate change is real and we have to act now.”

But coal interests and a wide range of other industries that rely on affordable electricity continue to fight the president’s climate agenda, in particular his regulations on power plants.

“The proposal effectively bans future coal-fueled power plants because it requires such plants to use CCS, a technology that is not commercially available or economically viable for coal‑fueled power plants,” the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) wrote in their comments to the EPA.

“Banning new coal-fueled power plants is bad energy policy for our nation because it will result in an overreliance on natural gas for new base load generation — a fuel that has a long history of price volatility and deliverability challenges,” ACCCE added. “EPA should not be picking winners and losers in energy markets.”

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