Energy

EPA Plans For Weaker Global Warming Rule, While White House Says Complete Opposite

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The EPA says it’s making compliance easier for its pending rule to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants by extending the time states have to cut emissions by two years.

The announcement was billed by the agency as living up to its promise of ensuring “flexibility and grid-reliability” an anonymous official told The Washington Post. “The agency received a lot of comments on these points and it’s being responsive,” the official said.

Environmentalists criticized the agency for extending the time states have to reduce CO2 emissions, saying the Obama administration was effectively weakening the rule from what was initially proposed.

“Our analysis indicates that such an extension is not needed, as states are already on track to cut their emissions through actions they’ve put in place, including state renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and coal plant retirements,” Ken Kimmell, president of Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an emailed statement to reporters.

While the EPA touts flexibility, rhetoric coming from the White House would indicates otherwise. Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, said the final rule would be strengthened.

“There really is no overstating how big this year is for climate change,” McDonough said at an event hosted by The New Republic and paid for by liberal The Center For American Progress. “We will finalize a stronger rule.”

McDonough also said the EPA’s final power plant rule, also called the Clean Power Plan, will “have new provisions to boost solar, wind and other renewable energy,” according to Bloomberg BNA. The rule is expected to be finalized as early as next week.

The Clean Power Plan forces states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule is being heavily opposed by major energy producing states, some of whom recently lost a legal challenge against the EPA because they lacked standing — the rule needs to be finalized before states can sue.

Nonetheless, a handful of states are preparing to file suit once the rule becomes official. Oklahoma, however, is trying to get the courts to rehear the case, arguing the agency’s rule is so expansive the state is being forced to comply before it’s even been finalized.

“The EPA is unlawfully coercing Oklahoma and other states into complying with the Clean Power Plan before the rule is even finalized,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said a statement.

Republican lawmakers have urged states not to comply with the rule when its finalized and to wait for the courts to decide whether EPA’s regulation is lawful. But the EPA has warned that states that don’t submit a plan to reduce emissions will be subject to federal oversight of their power industry.

The EPA’s plan to ease the compliance timeline is seen as an olive branch to states — even Democratic-led ones — that the agency’s proposed timeline was too strict. The agency is also planning on providing incentives to states in order to boost green energy production.

But while EPA is giving states more time to comply, the costs of the rule will still be staggering. EPA estimates the rule will cost about $8 billion a year by 2030, but predicts it will yield up to $93 billion in public health benefits by that time.

Critics have taken issue with the EPA’s cost-benefit accounting and competing reports have found the Clean Power Plan will cost were as high as $58 billion per year. One study by the National Mining Association argued the rule could cost $37 billion a year.

“That the White House is reported to provide two additional years for states to comply with its wholly unworkable regulations is irrelevant as American families and businesses will still bear the brunt of more costly, less reliable electricity,” Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said in a statement. “Should the EPA move forward to issue these regulations as final, we will do everything in our power to get them thrown out.”

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