EPA Chief: On Carbon Rules, Give Peace a Chance

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will press Chinese leaders on climate issues this week.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Feb. 25, 2014, 7:19 a.m.

En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy be­lieves an up­com­ing pro­pos­al to set car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for the na­tion’s ex­ist­ing power plants doesn’t have to be­come the stuff of fa­mil­i­ar battles over cli­mate change.

“Give it a chance,” she said Tues­day of the draft reg­u­la­tion slated to sur­face in June, ur­ging crit­ics not to bash the rules “out of the gate.”

Mc­Carthy, speak­ing at a White House-hos­ted en­vir­on­ment­al event, sought to lay the mes­saging ground­work for what prom­ises to be EPA’s broad­est second-term cli­mate ini­ti­at­ive. Power plants gen­er­ate a third of U.S. car­bon emis­sions.

A sep­ar­ate pro­pos­al re­leased last year to set stand­ards for newly con­struc­ted coal-fired power plants drew swift and fierce op­pos­i­tion from coal in­dustry and con­ser­vat­ive groups.

But Mc­Carthy touted the agency’s out­reach to power com­pan­ies and oth­er stake­hold­ers about the rule for the na­tion’s ex­ist­ing fleet of plants.

“I do not see util­it­ies go­ing out at this point, or states, say­ing ‘it can’t be done, it can’t be done, it can’t be done,’ ” Mc­Carthy said.

“I have great faith that this type of out­reach, this hon­est en­gage­ment, will get us a pro­pos­al that’s bet­ter than any­body ex­pec­ted,” she said at the event with re­li­gious and com­munity groups on cli­mate change.

Mc­Carthy vowed to give states plenty of lee­way to craft plans to meet the stand­ards for ex­ist­ing plants.

“We are go­ing to put out a pro­pos­al that is both go­ing to get sig­ni­fic­ant [emis­sions] re­duc­tions but be ab­so­lutely flex­ible, re­cog­niz­ing that states are all in very dif­fer­ent places here, and we need to make this work,” she said.

“We need to make this an op­por­tun­ity for every state to ad­vance their own eco­nom­ies the way they want to ad­vance them, but over­all we’ve got to start driv­ing that car­bon pol­lu­tion down,” Mc­Carthy ad­ded.

While Mc­Carthy is talk­ing détente, the up­com­ing rules are al­most cer­tain to be chal­lenged in court.

In 2012, a fed­er­al Ap­peals Court up­held EPA’s cli­mate au­thor­ity and its first wave of re­quire­ments, al­though a per­mit­ting pro­gram for big in­dus­tri­al pol­lu­tion sources is now be­fore the Su­preme Court.

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