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GOP Begins New Push to Delay EPA Rules on Toxic Power Plant Emissions

Republicans say installing long-overdue pollution controls would harm economic recovery, while advocates claim the rules would create jobs and save lives

By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News

Apr 20, 2011
A coal-fired power plant in Utah

Tierney is managing principal at , a Boston-based energy consulting firm, and former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy. She did not attend the hearing and is not directly involved with the EPA rules or related lawsuits.

GOP Says Not Trying to Repeal Rules

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the goal should not be "to repeal these regulations [but to] advance them in a reasonable way" without raising electricity prices or reducing jobs.

Of the seven witnesses present at the hearing, five were utility and manufacturing representatives who expressed worry over the regulations. The remaining two — Michael Bradley, executive director of the nonprofit , and John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Clean Air Program — urged the subcommittee to refrain from delay tactics.

EPA representatives were invited as witnesses but did not show up, prompting subcommittee member Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to relabel the agency as the "Evaporating Personnel Administration."

Rep. Rush countered that the EPA did not receive proper advance notice, and that the agency has very few employees with the expertise to act as witnesses. Friday's hearing was the third in a week that requested EPA's presence (an EPA representative attended just one of the three). In each case, the EPA had before the hearings took place.

'Unreasonable' Compliance Period

Under the new regulations, EPA would give utilities three years to install adequate pollution-control technologies.

Tom Fanning, chairman of the electric utility and one of the panel's witnesses, said the compliance period is "unreasonable."

"We are very concerned … [and we] believe it could affect the reliability of power," Fanning said, citing worries about costs, job losses and decreased capacity from power plant closures.

Bradley of the Clean Energy Group said industry has been expecting these regulations since 2000. "If there was any surprise, it was the degree of flexibility ... While not perfect, [the regulations] are reasonable and consistent with the Clean Air Act."

His comments echo published in The Wall Street Journal late last year by eight utility executives voicing their support for the air toxics standards.

"The electric sector has known that these rules were coming," the letter said. "Many companies, including ours, have already invested in modern air-pollution control technologies and cleaner and more efficient power plants."

The EPA will give one-year extensions and possibly longer for plants that need extra time to comply, said Bradley. Some 60 percent of coal plants already have scrubbers so "we are not starting from scratch."

Most of the control technologies can be installed in less than two years, he added. Companies can also average the emissions from multiple units to reduce the number of overall installations.

Citing a November 2010 letter from the trade group (ICAC), Bradley said the power industry has enough labor to get the job done.

ICAC Executive Director David Foerter composed the letter in response to an inquiry from Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.). In his letter, Foerter assured Carper that "based on a history of successes, we are now even more resolute that labor availability will in no way constrain the industry's ability to fully and timely comply with the proposed … [air toxics] rules.

"Contrary to any concerns or rhetoric pointing to labor shortages, we would hope that efforts that clean the air also put Americans back to work."

Pollution Controls Already In Use

hope they dump their waste

hope they dump their waste properly

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