GOP Goes Head Hunting in EPA Climate Probe

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2,1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
March 12, 2014, 10:41 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans are get­ting more ag­gress­ive in their ef­fort to trans­form ob­scure pro­vi­sions of a 2005 en­ergy law in­to the strands that un­ravel EPA’s car­bon-emis­sions rules for newly con­struc­ted power plants.

The En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee’s GOP lead­ers, in a new let­ter to the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency, de­mand the names of people at EPA who de­term­ined that the pro­posed emis­sions rules don’t run afoul of the En­ergy Policy Act of 2005.

The let­ter also seeks a slew of in­tern­al doc­u­ments.

Here’s what the fight is about: The 2005 law au­thor­izes tax cred­its and En­ergy De­part­ment fund­ing for pro­jects us­ing tech­no­logy that traps car­bon emis­sions from coal-based en­ergy pro­jects.

But pro­vi­sions in the same law say a tech­no­logy can’t form the basis for fu­ture EPA reg­u­la­tions simply be­cause it’s de­ployed at these “clean-coal” pro­jects.

EPA rules pro­posed in Septem­ber would re­quire fu­ture coal-fired power plants to trap and store a sub­stan­tial amount of their car­bon emis­sions.

The 2005 pro­vi­sions sud­denly mat­ter be­cause EPA has poin­ted to En­ergy De­part­ment-backed pro­jects when mak­ing the case that car­bon cap­ture and stor­age is far enough along to form the basis for the rule.

But EPA says it’s in the clear, be­cause this hand­ful of pro­jects backed un­der the 2005 law are far from the sole basis for the agency’s de­term­in­a­tion that CCS is ready for prime time.

The agency, in a de­tailed memo re­leased sev­er­al weeks ago, said it also re­viewed pro­jects that aren’t fun­ded un­der the 2005 law and oth­er in­form­a­tion.

But Re­pub­lic­ans say they’re not con­vinced. The let­ter seeks ex­pans­ive doc­u­ment­a­tion from EPA on the top­ic, such as in­tern­al emails and com­mu­nic­a­tions with oth­er agen­cies.

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