EPA administrator testifies before US Senate committee on Clean - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

EPA administrator testifies before US Senate committee on Clean Power Plan benefits

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before a U.S. Senate committee July 23 regarding the carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan that was announced June 2.

In the first Senate hearing since the rule was first announced, McCarthy presented testimony at the Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing, titled “Oversight Hearing: EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants.”

In her testimony, McCarthy highlighted the eminent threat climate change caused by carbon pollution from power plants, which she said are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, poses to “human health and welfare and economic well-being.”

“While the United States has limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels,” the testimony said. “EPA’s proposed Clean Power plan will cut hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution and hundreds of thousands of tons of other harmful air pollutants from existing power plants.”

West Virginia lawmakers, among others, have fought back against the plan, repeatedly dubbing it the “war on coal,” claiming that the plan will destroy the coal industry entirely.

However, in contrast to such arguments against the Plan, McCarthy also said that the EPA recognizes the significant role of coal and natural gas in the energy mix, and does not intend to change that.

“(The Plan) builds on action already underway to modernize aging plants, increase efficiency, and lower pollution, and paves a more certain path for conventional fuels in a clean energy economy,” according to her testimony.

McCarthy went on to say that the Clean Power Plan sets achievable standards, as it aims to cut energy waste by using national framework to set achievable state-specific goals to cut carbon pollution per megawatt-hour of electricity generated, in addition to empowering states to chart their own, customized paths to meeting their goals.

“To craft state goals, we looked at where states are today, and we followed where they’re going. Each state is different, so each goal, and each path, can be different,” the testimony stated. “Our plan doesn’t just give states more options—it gives entrepreneurs and investors more options, too, by unleashing the market forces that drive innovation and investment in cleaner power and low-carbon technologies,” she added.

The Partnership for a Better Energy Future, a coalition representing more than 165 industries, sent a letter to McCarthy just two days prior to the hearing, primarily addressing financial and logical concerns with the plan.

“EPA’s climate change proposal for existing plants is a complex web of implausible assumptions that will harm many sectors of the economy, not just the coal industry and its supply chain,” said one coalition member, the National Mining Association’s President and CEO Hal Quinn, July 22.

However, McCarthy touted the economic benefits that will come from the rule in her testimony.

“In 2030, the Clean Power Plan will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $90 billion dollars,” McCarthy's testimony said. “And because energy efficiency is such a smart, cost-effective strategy, we predict that, in 2030, average electricity bills for American families will be 8 percent cheaper.”

But Quinn said the coalition disagreed, stating just the opposite: “By ushering in higher energy costs the rule will cost jobs, slow employment growth, raise utility bills for millions of households and weaken the reliability of the power grid already described by experts as being close to the edge.”