CO2 research for fossil research getting ‘table scraps’ at DOE

A House of Representatives panel heard May 26 from two witnesses who were highly critical of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan and another witness who defended it.

The EPA proposal to have states cut power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 32% by 2030 was the subject of a hearing by the Subcommittee on Environment within the House Science, Space & Technology Committee.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the EPA proposal was legally flawed while Charles McConnell, the executive director of the Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University, deemed the CO2 plan an ineffective way to combat climate change.

But Brianne Gorod, who is Chief Counsel, at the Constitutional Accountability Center, called it an important first step in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

McConnell, who is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, said he does not question that climate change is real and that greenhouse gases play a role in that process.

“I am not a denier,” McConnell said. “What’s also clear scientifically and technically is that the EPA plan will not significantly impact global emissions.”

Commercializing “transformative” technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS) would be a more effective long-term strategy than reliance on this regulation, McConnell said.

If such technology is never deployed, “then we will never meet our climate targets,” McConnell said.

The former DOE official was also critical of the level of funding for fossil energy technology within DOE. “The amount of money that fossil has to work with is frankly table scraps,” McConnell said.

Even if the federal courts uphold the regulation, the CPP would have a miniscule impact on climate change, McConnell said.

It’s an attempt by EPA “to take over state and federal regulation of energy,” McConnell said.

A similar tone was struck by the Oklahoma attorney general. The Clean Power Plan would result in “making EPA a central planner” for every industry that emits carbon dioxide.

The Clean Power Plan would also raise the price of energy. Oklahoma, which is a growing producer of wind power, has already suffered ratepayer impact from the EPA “haze rule,” which only affects “aesthetics,” Pruitt said.

Oklahoma is one of the more than two-dozen states that have challenged the EPA CO2 plan in court. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments on CPP in September. The Supreme Court has issued a stay until the matter is litigated.

Pruitt argued that the carbon rule doesn’t pass legal muster because EPA should only be regulating CO2 from power plants “inside the fence.” Legal foes have often said that EPA is limited to setting plant-level emissions standards.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.