Today, the Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Administrator McCarthy will almost immediately have the opportunity to show how she intends to run the Agency for, perhaps, the remainder of President Obama’s second term. Will she pursue a reasonable approach to regulations, ensuring they are designed with care, input from stakeholders and without unnecessarily harming the economy? Or, will we have more of the same partisan-driven regulations, unattainable standards and astronomical compliance costs that so often occurred during the President’s first term?
One of the very first tests will be the Agency’s “re-proposal” of the carbon standards for new power plants pursuant to the President’s Climate Action Plan. In their first crack, the Agency proposed a rule that would have required all power plants irrespective of fuel to meet the same standard, effectively mandating plant design and fuel-type for all new plants. Strongly opposed by this organization and many others, the one-size-fits-all approach would have been an unprecedented attempt at using an environmental statute to set U.S. energy policy. After substantial input from several entities (and direction from the President), it is now widely believed that the Agency will try again and reissue the proposed power plant rule in September, setting separate standards for different fuels. A step in the right direction? Maybe. The answer will lie in the details.
EPA can set a separate emission standard for every fuel-type, unit design, and plant size, but if those standards cannot be achieved through existing, commercially viable technologies, the result will be the same as the last proposal: energy policy, not environmental regulation; one-size-fits-all, not all of the above. We stand ready to work with Administrator McCarthy in her new role, one that we hope will lead to a reasonable and balanced approach to environmental regulations.
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