Three former Environmental Protection Agency heads were brought to Capitol Hill Wednesday to convince senators to act quickly on global warming, but were skeptical of the impact the Obama administration’s new power plant regulations will have on the climate.
The current EPA is planning on cutting emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030 as well as mandating that new coal-fired power plants install carbon capture technology. The rules have pleased environmental activists and Democrats.
But U.S. action alone would have little to no effect on global warming, warned a former Republican EPA administrator.
“Absent action by China, Brazil, India and other fast-growing economies, what we do alone will not suffice,” George H.W. Bush EPA administrator William Reilly testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Reilly did, however, say that the rules were “absolutely necessary if we are to have the credibility to negotiate with other countries, who typically fault the developed world for causing the problem and worry that carbon constraints will thwart their legitimate need for economic growth.”
The EPA’s new rules would only reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions by less than one percent, stemming global temperature rises by 0.016 degrees Fahrenheit. Sea level rise would only be reduced by 1/100th of an inch, according to a report by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
But Reilly is not the only former EPA administrator to admit the U.S. alone could not stop global warming. Former EPA chief Lisa Jackson — who left the Obama administration early last year in the midst of an email scandal — told Congress in 2009 that “U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels.”
Another former EPA head who testified before the Senate Wednesday admitted there were concerns over the legality of the EPA’s new power plant rules and the adequacy of the Clean Air Act to address global warming.
“There is, of course, honest disagreement about aspects of the Agency’s power plant proposal, including whether it may be stretching its legal authority a bit too far in some parts of the proposed rule,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who ran the EPA under President George W. Bush.
“That being said, it’s clear that the Clean Air Act, as it now stands, is an imperfect tool to address the unique challenges that climate change presents,” Whitman said, adding that the EPA is acting since Congress has not.
Despite warnings about global warming from three former Republican EPA administrators, none of them agreed with statements made by President Obama that the climate was warming faster than predicted in the last decade.
“The President on November 14, 2012 said, ‘The temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted, even ten years ago.’ Then on May 29, 2013 [President Obama] said, ‘We also know that the climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or ten years ago,” said Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who then asked the former EPA heads to raise their hands if they agreed with these statements.
“The record will reflect no one raised their hands,” Sessions said.
Even though the Republican EPA heads did not agree with Obama’s remarks, they still stressed their view that the U.S. needs to lead the world to a solution on the issue.
“We like to speak of American exceptionalism,” said President Reagan EPA’s head William Ruckelshaus. “If we want to be truly exceptional then we should begin the difficult task of leading the world away from the unacceptable effects of our increasing appetites for fossil fuels before it is too late.”
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