Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, discussed Sec. 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which deals with carbon emission reductions, at a webinar hosted by the American Sustainable Business Council on Sept. 4.
McCarthy said the rules proposed in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan are part of President Barack Obama’s climate action plan. “Climate change is a risk to health, business and economic growth,” she said, adding that small business owners overwhelming want action taken on the issue. And she’s proud of what the EPA is doing by developing standards to control air pollution, much of which comes from plants that generate power by coal, natural gas and petroleum.
McCarthy explained that the rule-making process took into account views from industry, unions, state officials and others. The EPA’s goal, in addition to cutting carbon emission was to make sure that the rules “can change climate economic risks into opportunities,” she said.
“In the past, we have been prescriptive,” McCarthy admitted. This time it’s different, she explained, highlighting the flexibility states and industries will have to meet the goal of a 30% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels from power plants. EPA looked at each state’s energy mix and then offering a variety of ways it can meet the goals by 2030. Some such choices are to invest in energy-efficiency plans, generate a greater reliance on lower emitting power sources and expand renewable- and nuclear energy options. States will be able to create their own plans, or work in collaboration with other.
States should start planning now, McCarthy said. Each will need to articulate a plan for what it intends to do to meet the goals after the final rule is published. They’ve “got to roll up their sleeves to understand their energy and economic needs and move forward to reduce those emissions,” she said, adding that plans will likely be due by June 2016.
McCarthy was speaking to a nonprofit group that educates about the importance of sustainability – a group that also has a lobbying arm, the ASBC Action Fund that advocates for and supports EPA’s proposal.
But, not all think EPA’s proposal is a good one. Last year, plants that use fossil fuels generated about 67% of the electricity generated in the U.S., and some are worried about what might happen if those plants face stricter regulations. Several states have filed suit against EPA, saying the rules are “illegal” and will cost thousands of jobs. Some utilities say the rules will lead to plant closures, and some groups say the regulations would raise the cost of power and harm the economy.
The comment period on the new rules is still open. Comments must be received by Oct. 16. And, McCarthy urged webinar listeners to “comment often,” adding that “it’s not like voting, you can do it more than once.”