Energy

Conservatives Call On EPA To Go Even Further In Limiting Its Own Power

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
  • Conservative activists want EPA to reconsider a 2009 legal document on greenhouse gases
  • That finding gave former President Barack Obama legal cover to issue billions of dollars worth of new regulations
  • Conservatives claim, “[T]he best and most recent science undermines that claim and therefore reconsideration is warranted”

Conservatives applauded the Trump administration’s proposal to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power plant regulations, however, many want this to be a stepping stone to strip the agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

“The one Obama era rule that still needs to be revisited is the endangerment finding that labels life-giving carbon dioxide as a threat to public welfare,” former Trump transition official Steve Milloy told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Milloy is referring to an EPA regulatory document from 2009 that found greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, indirectly harm public health through global warming. That endangerment finding gave EPA the legal cover it needed to issue global warming regulations.

The endangerment finding authority underlies sweeping regulations on power plants, vehicles and oil and gas operations estimated to cost billions of dollars, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Milloy and others want EPA to put the CO2 genie back in the bottle by reopening the 2009 endangerment finding. The hope is re-examining the evidence would show flaws in the 2009 finding. (RELATED: NYT Isn’t Giving All The Facts In Its Latest Hit Piece Against Trump’s EPA)

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) petitioned EPA in 2017 to reconsider the endangerment finding. CEI hopes EPA will consider its petition.

Moreover, CEI argues the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, a more lenient alternative to the Clean Power Plan, will likely be challenged in court.

“We think that granting the petition remains the best option if the court decides that the new rule doesn’t do enough to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants,” said Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, gave conservative groups some hope on Tuesday when he said “the issue is still alive,” referring to considerations over reopen the endangerment finding.

“I think we’ll eventually see changes there, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Inhofe said, E&E News reported.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced ACE on Tuesday, rolling back the Obama administration’s plan to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants. Twenty-seven states challenged the 2015 regulation, scoring a legal victory in early 2016 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay against implementation.

“The ACE proposal establishes breathing space for the endangerment finding rollback to occur in the future,” said Milloy, a lawyer and policy expert who runs the website JunkScience.com.

However, the head of EPA’s air and radiation office suggested the agency had no plans to reconsider the endangerment finding any time soon.

“We are not proposing to rescind to the endangerment finding. We are not proposing to find that power plants do not contribute to that endangerment,” EPA’s Bill Wehrum told reporters Tuesday on a call about the ACE rule.

Instead, Trump’s EPA seems content with scaling back or repealing Obama-era climate regulations that target coal plants, vehicles and oil and gas operations.

Environmentalists oppose revisiting the endangerment finding, going with the oft-used argument that the “science is settled” when it comes to global warming. Some attorneys have also been vocal about how difficult it would be to nix the 2009 finding.

Wheeler told The Washington Post in July he saw no “compelling reason” to review the endangerment finding.

“There would have to be a major, compelling reason to try to ever reopen that. I don’t think that’s an open question at this point,” Wheeler said.

However, Ebell said leaving the endangerment finding in place left the door open for future administrations to impose sweeping regulations over the economy.

“The ‘Clean Power’ Plan was a key part of the Obama administration’s war on affordable energy and based on the finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare,” Ebell said in a statement.

“However, the best and most recent science undermines that claim and therefore reconsideration is warranted,” Ebell said.

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