Inhofe v Boxer; the Clean Power Plan gets its day in the Senate

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, took a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official to task on Feb. 11 at a committee hearing on the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which is designed to reduce CO2 emissions from existing power plants.

Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation from EPA, testified at the hearing.

“By mid-summer, your office plans to finalize three separate rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants,” said Inhofe in his opening statement. “According to your own testimony before the House Energy and Power Subcommittee on June 19, 2014, these rules do nothing to save us from global warming. No one should be surprised; we’ve been here before.”

Inhofe said that NASA’s Dr. James Hansen – the father of global warming theory – said himself that the Kyoto Protocol will have little effect on global temperature in the 21st century and that it will take 30 Kyotos to reduce warming. EPA head Lisa Jackson testified that U.S. action would not impact world CO2 levels. According to two recent analyses of the Clean Power Plan, it’s been demonstrated that the initiative will only reduce the earth’s temperature by 0.02 degrees Celsius by 2100. Another study demonstrates that CO2 concentrations will be reduced by less than 0.5%, global temperature rise will be reduced by 0.016 degree F, and sea level rise will be reduced by a 0.3 millimeter.

Inhofe added: “The agency has already missed its first statutorily required deadline to finalize its new source proposal by January 8, 2015. I’m interested to learn how the EPA expects states to comply with an expedited timeline the agency itself couldn’t even meet.  It should not be surprising that 31 States now oppose your Clean Power Plan. Today is EPA’s day to testify, but we will invite these states to have their day before this Committee to explain their problems.

“In the meantime, I have a number of problems with these proposals. I am concerned that your agency intends to impose the most expensive regulation in history yet fail to achieve your goals. According to the economic consulting and analysis firm, NERA, the Clean Power Plan alone would cost as much as $73 billion per year and upwards of $469 billion over the next 15 years. It’s difficult to know what the new source performance standards would cost, however, because no one will build a new coal plant. We’ll have to take the President at his word from his interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in January of 2008 when he said, ‘So if somebody wants to build a coal power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.’

“Under the Clean Power Plan, at least 43 states will face double digit electricity price increases. The President is delivering on his campaign promise that under his Administration ‘electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket.’ Additional impacts of the existing source rule include interruptions to the reliability of our nation’s electrical grid. The Southwest Power Pool, which includes Oklahoma, reports the rule would result in ‘cascading outages’ and ‘voltage collapse.’ The Clean Power Plan would also force the early retirement of coal-fired plants where operators have already made significant investments to install emissions control equipment in order to comply with other EPA regulations. Finally, this rule is an unprecedented attempt by the EPA to greatly expand its section 111 authority. This results in a Federal takeover of how we plan, develop, and consume energy in this country.

“Democrats may want to criticize him for submitting comments on behalf of Peabody Energy, but even Lawrence Tribe wrote in comments and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, that he ‘concluded that the agency is asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority.'” Peabody Energy is the nation’s largest coal producer and has taken the lead for the coal industry on advocating against the Clean Power Plan and for coal-fired power as a cost-effective way to reduce poverty through cheap electricity.

Inhofe added: “I’m eager to hear why EPA is steamrolling ahead and requesting billions of dollars on these proposals. Not only do states reject them, but they ignore the will of Congress, rely on unreasonable assumptions, cost billions, increase our energy bills, and do nothing to impact global warming.”

Boxer says if California can do it, the rest of the nation can

As would be expected, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee and up until recently its chairman, defended the Clean Power Plan.

“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that in 134 years of record keeping, no year has been hotter around the globe than 2014,” said Boxer about why CO2 reductions are needed. “In fact, 2014 was the eighteenth year in a row where the average temperature increased in the U.S. The President’s proposal will enable America to lead the way to avert the most calamitous impacts of climate change — such as sea level rise, dangerous heat waves, and economic disruption.”

Boxer said that as recently reported in the New York Times, a new Stanford University poll found that 83% of Americans, including 61% of Republicans, say if nothing is done to reduce carbon pollution, global warming will be a serious problem in the future. And 77% of Americans say the federal government should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change. “Last year, this Committee heard from four former EPA Administrators who served under Republican Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and they all agreed that climate change requires action now and it should not be a partisan issue,” Boxer added.

“The President’s plan relies on the authorities under the Clean Air Act, which was created with an overwhelming bipartisan consensus,” Boxer said. “In 1970, the Clean Air Act passed the Senate by a vote of 73-0, passed the House by 375-1, and was signed into law by President Nixon. The Clean Air Act has a proven track record of success. Since 1970, emissions of common air pollutants have dropped 72 percent, while the U.S. GDP has grown by 219 percent, and total private sector jobs have increased by 101 percent.

“My home state of California has been a leader in proving that you can reduce carbon pollution and grow the economy. California households pay the ninth lowest electricity bills and the per person carbon footprint is among the lowest in the country. We also added 491,000 jobs in the first year of the state’s cap and trade system – a job growth rate of 3.3%, better than the national rate of 2.5% during the same period. And over the last four years, California has turned a $26 billion budget deficit into a projected $4 billion surplus.”

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.