House GOP plans push to halt EPA’s greenhouse gas rulemaking

The Republican majority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a Jan. 10 statement saying that subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have introduced a bill to limit the White House’s new greenhouse gas control plan.

Both Whitfield and Manchin are from major coal-producing states. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Jan. 8 published a revised greenhouse gas control plan for new power plants that, while it has some concessions to coal-fired power industry complaints about a 2012 proposal, still imposes stringent controls on coal plants that the industry says can’t be met with commercially proven carbon capture and storage technologies.

In June 2013, President Obama directed the EPA to develop greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for new and existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. In September 2013, the agency proposed regulations for new plants that would require that any future coal-fired power plant use technologies that are not commercially feasible, said the Jan. 10 statement. The agency is expected to propose regulations for existing plants in June 2014 and is currently engaged in stakeholder outreach.  

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Whitfield and Manchin have introduced legislation to ensure EPA’s rules allow for a true “all of the above” American energy strategy, including an affordable and diverse electricity generation portfolio, the statement added. The bill would require that any rule establishing GHG standards for new plants may not be issued unless the EPA Administrator: establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal-fired plants (which the Jan. 8 proposal does for the first time); sets standards for the coal category that have been achieved over a one-year period by at least six units located at different commercial power plants in the United States; and establishes a subcategory for coal-fired plants that use lignite coal and sets standards that have been achieved over a one-year period by at least three units located at different commercial power plants in the United States. Those criteria about units with time-proven greenhouse controls in operation for some time can’t be met today.

For existing power plants, the bill says that GHG standards or guidelines applicable to modified, reconstructed, or existing plants can’t take effect unless a federal law is enacted specifying the effective date. Since GHG legislation, particularly in the Republican-controlled House, has been stalled for years, with no end in sight, this provision would effectively ban any new GHG limits for existing plants mandated by EPA under its rulemaking authority.

For any rule establishing GHG standards or guidelines applicable to modified, reconstructed, and existing plants, the bill says that the EPA Administrator has to submit a report to Congress regarding the proposed rule, its economic impacts, and the projected effects on global GHG emissions. It also repeals EPA’s prior proposed rules to establish GHG standards for new power plants. 

“Coal is one of our most abundant and affordable resources, but EPA is acting beyond its legal authority by proposing unworkable regulations that would mean it would be impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in America,” said Whitfield in a Jan. 9 statement. “These destructive regulations are being pushed through without a public debate about the future of coal in this country, despite the consequences on jobs, energy costs, and economic growth. This bipartisan, bicameral solution will allow coal to continue to supply affordable, reliable electricity necessary to support a growing economy. It will hold EPA accountable by ensuring that greenhouse gas regulations for power plants moving forward are actually achievable and preserve an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy.”

“The Electricity Security and Affordability Act would rein in the EPA’s overreach on greenhouse gas emission standards for coal-fired power plants by ensuring that regulations are based on technology that is proven and commercially available for use,” said Manchin. “It’s time we strike a balance between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. And that’s what our legislation does.”

Whitfield’s Energy and Power Subcommittee will convene on Jan. 13 for opening statements and then reconvene on Jan. 14 to consider this bill, H.R. 3826. The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on the proposed legislation on Nov. 14, 2013.

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.