Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, sent the following letter last night to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that EPA withdraw its greenhouse gas regulations for power plants as the rules rely on several unprecedented and flawed interpretations of the Clean Air Act, which was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases or to be a tool to end coal in American electricity generation.
Full Text of Letter
August 2, 2012
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Re: EPA's Proposed Electric Utility Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard Rule
Dear Administrator Jackson:
I ask that you immediately withdraw the proposed rule, "Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units" (77 Fed Reg. 22392, referred herein to as "Proposed Rule"). This rule relies on a number of unprecedented and flawed interpretations of Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) or force the elimination of coal as a fuel.
If finalized, this rule will transform the American economy. It would set precedents affecting industries far beyond electric generating units (EGUs) and extend EPA's regulatory reach into manufacturing and other regulated entities. This type of regulatory action - with its consequences, opaque and hidden from the vast majority of our citizens - only reinforces the public perception that EPA uses clandestine means to achieve its political objectives while ignoring the effects on consumers, particularly the poor and the elderly.
EPA has stated that the Proposed Rule allows a continued role for all fuels in electric power generation. This is a misrepresentation at best. In fact, the proposal thrusts on new EGUs the first ever GHG New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), which are neither commercially viable nor achievable in practice. At the same time, the proposal also places existing units at risk of closure if new source requirements are triggered as a result of installing pollution control equipment to meet other EPA regulations. It is widely acknowledged that the proposed standards would eliminate the use of coal as a fuel source in generating electricity. Certainly, eliminating coal - our most abundant energy resource - is not a small step or one that should be made by Agency fiat. Indeed, the vast majority of our citizens believe that coal should remain in our country's energy mix because it ensures affordable, reliable electricity and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The impact of the Proposed Rule on natural gas plants is also troubling. If EIA and EPA's models are correct, natural gas fired power plants will likely dominate new generation in the years ahead. Yet, the proposal creates uncertainty for natural gas because, as the Agency admits, standards as low as 950 lbs CO2 per MWh would eliminate designs currently used in electric-only generation. As a result, this could limit options for natural gas generation below 40 MW. Given the proposal's legal vulnerabilities and the uncertainties it creates for simple cycle and other gas fired generation, one must question whether it rewards natural gas or threatens all fossil fuels. The answer is more likely the later.
Finally, the Proposed Rule embraces a reckless energy and economic agenda that is threatening a weak economy. As you are aware, under CAA Section 111(a)(2), the proposed standards are immediately applicable to EGUs that commence construction after the date of publication. The Proposed Rule, therefore, has the force of law, but simultaneously yields only limited legal recourse to sources affected by its requirements.
For these reasons, the Proposed Rule should be immediately withdrawn. If reissued, the standards should first be issued as an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. Such steps are essential to allow the public and their elected representatives, sufficient time to understand and respond to the proposal, its legal implications, and the economic consequences of its implementation-without the threat of immediate applicability and enforcement.
I have attached to this letter a number of comments and questions on the many important issues raised by this Proposed Rule and request that you respond by August 31, 2012.
James M. Inhofe
Committee on Environment and Public Works