Proposed EPA Rule on Carbon Pollution
by Larry K. Fried
The long awaited EPA proposed rules for reducing power plant carbon pollution (greenhouse gas) will be released by the EPA on Monday, June 2nd. I was on a conference call meeting today with Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator and Dan Ultech, Special Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change. The call was hosted by Anne Kelly, Director of Public Policy at Ceres, an advocacy organization working to build a sustainable global economy. In the meeting the White House officials outlined the intent and principles of the proposed rule, which Ultech called the “crown jewel” of the Obama’s climate change action strategy.
The proposed rules will be not be finalized until June of 2015, and I think we can expect a great deal of controversy and likely changes before the finalized rules are released. McCarthy said she is looking forward to this next step in interacting with the various players particularly states and effected businesses. She thought that both of these players would see in the proposed rules their input and influence. Accordingly, while McCarthy says the rule will require significant emissions nationally over time, she thinks that greenhouse gas reductions will far exceed the requirements. She promised that the rules include a great deal of flexibility for the individual circumstances of the states, including their current energy mix and the progress they have already made in reducing carbon pollution through energy conservation and renewable energy programs. The rules give states “a reasonable amount of time” to develop individualized strategies to shift investment to renewable energy while minimizing cost impacts.
Further, Administrator McCarthy argued that everything they are asking of states and power producers is based on proven strategies, and builds on infrastructure already in place. The rule proposals “are very creative and legally sound.” Both she and Ultech criticized the preemptive US Chamber of Commerce attack on proposed rules they haven’t even seen yet, as “wildly inaccurate” and having no relation to the actual proposed rules coming out Monday. McCarthy also emphasized that she views the proposed rules as an opportunity to turn business risks (climate change) into business opportunities.
This is a view that I whole-heartedly support, as I do the principles behind the proposed rules. As always, the devil is in the details, and my caution is not for how far the rules will go, but will they go far enough. Together with other actions in the US and around the world, will reductions be implemented quickly enough to stave off unrelenting climate change disaster, and at last show the US as a true leader in the most profound challenge of our times. I look forward to the release on Monday as a huge step in the right direction.