House leader says EPA needs to fix its CO2 science for power plants

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, sent a Dec. 3 letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy highlighting what he called serious problems with the data underlying the proposed CO2 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for power plants.

These problems were outlined by the agency’s own independent scientists about the science supporting EPA’s new rule, Smith said.

The Work Group charged with reviewing EPA’s major regulatory actions recently released a memo that recommends a thorough review of the science underpinning the NSPS proposal. The memo highlights the fact that EPA rushed ahead with its NSPS proposal without waiting for the advice of the agency’s independent scientists and that the underlying science lacked adequate peer review, Smith wrote. 

Smith said: “The EPA’s regulations must have a sound scientific and technical basis. This principle cannot be compromised. The agency should not act to unilaterally impose regulations on the American people, particularly when its own advisors have expressed reservations regarding the science on which those regulations are based. 

“Given the massive effect of this rule on the American economy, the agency cannot afford to cut corners,” he added. “The agency’s stubborn insistence on placing its judgment above that of its science advisors raises serious concerns that the EPA’s rulemaking is based more on partisan politics than sound science. Although EPA lawyers may find creative ways to skirt the law, the American people hold the agency to a higher standard. EPA must quickly correct this problem; the time for excuses has passed.”

Smith pointed to the fact that the law says any compliance technology under NSPS needs to be “adequately demonstrated,” but he said even EPA’s own people acknowledge that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies for power plants are years away from commercial deployment. The U.S. Department of Energy is currently supporting three CCS demonstration projects simply because they are cutting edge and not proven yet, Smith wrote.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.