For EPA’s Global Warming Rules, Will ‘Next Year’ Mean ‘Never’?

EPA is running out of time to craft carbon-emissions standards for industrial polluters beyond power plants.

RODEO, CA - JANUARY 25: Steam rises from stacks at the Conoco-Phillips refinery on January 25, 2011 in Rodeo, California. Gas prices continue to rise and have gone up 14% or $.39 a gallon over the past year. Crude oil is currently trading at just under $90 a barrell and some analysts speculate that it could skyrocket up above $150 a barrell in the coming year. 
National Journal
Ben Geman
March 11, 2014, 12:44 p.m.

EPA’s new budget plan says the agency hopes to make crit­ic­al — and con­tro­ver­sial — de­cisions about its ef­fort to reg­u­late green­house gases by the end of fisc­al 2015.

Spe­cific­ally, the budget says the agency hopes to de­term­ine wheth­er it should craft car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for sev­er­al big in­dus­tri­al pol­lu­tion sources — not­ably re­finer­ies, but also pulp and pa­per fa­cil­it­ies, iron and steel pro­duc­tion, and few oth­er cat­egor­ies.

But if the pledges about ex­pand­ing cli­mate rules sounds fa­mil­i­ar to EPA-watch­ers, they should: The fisc­al 2014 plan said the same thing about a de­cision on the rules, and the fact that the agency has now moved these de­cisions to its 2015 budget sug­gests that de­term­in­a­tions in 2014 are prob­ably not in the cards.

Now, with the clock wind­ing down on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ex­perts say it’s un­clear wheth­er EPA will craft car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for any big sta­tion­ary pol­lu­tion sources bey­ond power plants — or even if it has enough time or re­sources left to do so.

“As a prac­tic­al mat­ter, they would prob­ably need to get star­ted on the rule­mak­ing by the end of this year if they want to get new [green­house-gas] reg­u­la­tions in place for re­finer­ies or any oth­er in­dustry sec­tor be­fore they leave of­fice,” said Jeff Holmstead, who was the top EPA air pol­lu­tion of­fi­cial un­der Pres­id­ent George W. Bush and is now a part­ner at Bracewell & Gi­uliani.

“I’m pretty con­fid­ent they’re not work­ing on any­thing yet,” he said.

Here’s spe­cific­ally what EPA’s fisc­al year 2015 plan says about po­ten­tial rules for re­finer­ies and a small hand­ful of oth­er in­dus­tri­al cat­egor­ies: The agency in 2015 will “per­form ana­lyses and plans to make de­term­in­a­tions to ad­dress wheth­er reg­u­la­tion of GHG emis­sions from such lis­ted source cat­egor­ies is war­ran­ted as re­sources al­low, in­clud­ing con­tinu­ation of activ­it­ies in­volving the elec­tri­city gen­er­at­ing sec­tor.”

But get­ting from “plans to make de­term­in­a­tions” to ac­tu­ally reg­u­lat­ing re­quires EPA to cov­er lots of ter­rain. Craft­ing Clean Air Act rules is a slow, re­source-in­tens­ive pro­cess.

Once the agency has de­term­ined it will craft a rule, the pro­cess of writ­ing and pro­pos­ing it, tak­ing com­ment, and com­plet­ing it can take years. And for ma­jor rules, court chal­lenges al­most in­ev­it­ably fol­low.

“I would be pretty sur­prised if they try to do an­oth­er [green­house-gas] rule be­fore they leave of­fice,” said Holmstead, whose firm lob­bies on be­half of power com­pan­ies, re­finers, and oth­er in­dus­tries.

Power plants are by far the biggest sta­tion­ary source of car­bon emis­sions. Re­finer­ies rank second.

EPA has been fo­cus­ing heav­ily on craft­ing stand­ards for ex­ist­ing power plants, which the agency in­tends to pro­pose in June and com­plete a year later. The agency is also work­ing to com­plete fi­nal emis­sions stand­ards for new power plants.

If Pres­id­ent Obama is suc­ceeded by a Re­pub­lic­an, that could very well shut the door for years on car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for in­dus­tri­al sources be­sides power plants.

Holmstead es­tim­ates that EPA would need to com­plete a fi­nal re­finery rule by Oc­to­ber 2016 to avoid hav­ing a sub­sequent ad­min­is­tra­tion with­draw it. He also notes that EPA has oth­er big-tick­et items on its plate, such as the re­view of ozone stand­ards that’s man­dated by stat­ute.

In 2010, EPA reached a set­tle­ment with a num­ber of states and en­vir­on­ment­al groups to set stand­ards for power plants and re­finer­ies. The power plant rules are pro­ceed­ing, al­beit more slowly than EPA had ini­tially pledged.

But the re­finery rules have be­come a big ques­tion mark.

“We are talk­ing to all kinds of folks about what [the power-plant rule] might mean for oth­er sta­tion­ary sources, but, frankly, this [power-plant rule] is where my fo­cus is and will be,” said EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy, speak­ing to re­port­ers at an en­ergy con­fer­ence in Hou­s­ton last week.

EPA, to be sure, is do­ing more on cli­mate in Obama’s second term than the power-plant rule. For in­stance, the agency is craft­ing the next round of emis­sions stand­ards for big trucks.

But when it comes to car­bon emis­sions stand­ards for big sta­tion­ary in­dus­tri­al pol­luters, power plants are the big show — and maybe the only one.

Mi­chael Liv­er­more of the In­sti­tute for Policy In­teg­rity, an en­vir­on­ment­al group af­fil­i­ated with New York Uni­versity’s law school, said the fact that the clock is run­ning out on emis­sions stand­ards bey­ond power plants is a “con­cern.”

But what’s cru­cial, he said, is for EPA to fo­cus on cre­at­ing car­bon emis­sions stand­ards for power plants that will with­stand chal­lenges in the courts and on Cap­it­ol Hill, and he noted that the power plant rules are a high pri­or­ity for en­vir­on­ment­al­ists.

Those EPA rules are a center­piece of Pres­id­ent Obama’s cli­mate agenda.

“My guess is they see the re­finer­ies … as icing on the cake,” said Liv­er­more, who was the found­ing ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or and is now seni­or ad­viser to the in­sti­tute. “But they mostly want to make sure the cake doesn’t fall apart.”

What We're Following See More »
#NEVERTRUMP’S LONELY LEADER
Romney Talks Cost of His Futile Anti-Trump Fight
10 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”

Source:
CONGRESS DIVIDED ON DEBT CRISIS PLAN
Puerto Rico Relief Stalled on the Hill
55 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."

Source:
LAWMAKERS RECESS WITH NO PLAN IMMINENT
Congress Slow-walking Zika Legislation
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching. ... Instead of racing to fund efforts to thwart a potential health crisis, lawmakers are treating the Zika debate like regular legislation, approving Thursday the establishment of a House-Senate committee to hammer out differences in their competing bills."

Source:
LITTLE MARCO FOR SENATE
Trump to Rubio: Run for Reelection
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump may have defeated Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential ambitions, but he wants the man he dubbed Little Marco to keep his job in the Senate. "Poll data shows that @marcorubio does by far the best in holding onto his Senate seat in Florida," Trump tweeted Thursday evening. "Important to keep the MAJORITY. Run Marco!" Trump is not the first to urge Rubio to run, though the senator has said such a move is unlikely. The filing deadline is June 24. 

Source:
FIRST SITTING POTUS TO VISIT
At Hiroshima, Obama Calls For Nuke-Free World
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Obama called for an end to nuclear weapons Friday during a somber visit to Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan, where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb 71 years ago. "That is the future we can choose,” Obama said. “A future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not for the bomb of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

Source:
×