House GOP report tries to shoot down EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The Republican majority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Dec. 16 released a report saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, proposed in June, is fundamentally illegal and should be withdrawn.

The plan, due out in final form next summer, would reduce CO2 emissions from existing power plants by 30% by 2030. The comprehensive analysis released Dec. 16 by the GOP provides a detailed description of the proposal, the legislative history of section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, information on the legal issues raised by the proposed rule, and offers examples of key testimony received by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee has been conducting aggressive oversight of EPA’s proposal since its release in June, including hearings with testimony from EPA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and state energy and environmental regulators. As a result of this oversight, the GOP majority on the committee has established the following five preliminary conclusions as outlined in the report:

  • There are fundamental legal questions about the EPA’s authority to regulate in this area and, assuming such authority, the scope of that authority;
  • EPA’s plan would transform federal and state decision-making concerning the transmission and delivery of electric power in the United States;
  • Many of the key assumptions in the EPA’s proposed “building blocks” are unrealistic;
  • The proposal would not be workable for potentially many states because of a host of implementation challenges; and
  • The accelerated timeline for completing the rulemaking appears inadequate to respond fully to all substantive comments.

“It seems like the deeper we dig into this proposal, the more problems we uncover,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. “The administration is trying to push through an unprecedented plan that will fundamentally change the way we generate and consume electricity. And while EPA’s legal authority remains in question, the consequences for consumers and our economy are certain – higher prices, fewer jobs, and reduced reliability. A runaway regulatory train is barreling toward us, and we must do everything we can to stop it.”

“We have conducted extensive oversight of this proposal, and our work is not finished. EPA has not provided the true cost and consequences of its clean power plan, nor have they adequately explained how the agency will address the myriad of legal and feasibility issues,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. “This Administration’s extreme actions at EPA are being implemented because of President Obama’s view that climate is the most important issue that is facing mankind. While we all agree that climate is changing, we simply cannot agree with his plan which will dramatically increase electricity costs, affect the reliability of the grid system, and will create additional obstacles to economic growth. We will continue to press the administration for answers and hold EPA accountable under the law.”

The GOP report noted: “Under the Clean Power Plan, EPA projects that up to 50 gigawatts of additional coal-fired generation may become uneconomic by 2030, with the vast majority retiring by 2020. EPA specifically estimates that in 2020, the amount of additional coal-fired generation that may be removed from operation would represent 19% of all coal-fired capacity (and 4.6% of total generation capacity in 2020). This would be over and above units already scheduled to be retired in the coming years. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently estimated that 42,192 megawatts ‘has either been retired since 2012 or is planned for retirement by 2025.’”

Said the report on a legal issue with the plan under the Clean Air Act (CAA): “[T]he express language of the CAA, as set forth in the U.S. Code, provides that EPA does not have the legal authority to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants under section 111(d). Specifically, section 111(d) excludes the regulation of any pollutant emitted from a source category which is being regulated under section 112 of the CAA. Because EPA now regulates electric generating units as sources under CAA section 112 pursuant to the agency’s 2012 ‘Mercury and Air Toxics’ or ‘Utility MACT’ rule, this language prohibits EPA from setting standards for these sources of emissions under section 111(d).”

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.