EPA to seek replacement for Clean Power Plan
Washington, 7 December (Argus) — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue a replacement for the Clean Power Plan even as it plans to probe the veracity of climate science, agency administrator Scott Pruitt said today.
EPA two months ago proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a rule projected to cut a third of power sector carbon emissions by 2030 compared with 2005. EPA at the time said it had not decided whether to start the time-consuming process of developing a new rule, but Pruitt said that decision had been made.
"We are going to be introducing a replacement rule," Pruitt said at his first congressional hearing since he was sworn in nearly nine months ago.
EPA has yet to provide details on the scope of the replacement. But many electric utilities have been lobbying Pruitt to write a scaled-back version of the rule, saying it is better than the uncertainty of having no regulations. Industry officials think EPA could even use the rule to overhaul an air permitting program called New Source Review, something environmentalists oppose.
Some coal producers and conservative groups have pushed Pruitt not to write a replacement, and instead start to dismantle EPA's finding in 2009 that greenhouse gas emissions threaten public health and welfare. EPA is required by law to regulate greenhouse gas emissions so long as that "endangerment finding" remains intact.
Pruitt told lawmakers he thinks the process EPA used to make the endangerment finding was "short-shrifted" because it relied in part on findings from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But he did not say if EPA will challenge the finding, something many experts say would take enormous amounts of effort and would be difficult to defend in court.
Pruitt has floated the idea of having mainstream climate scientists hold a debate with scientists with opposing views in a "red team, blue team" exercise. Pruitt said that was still something he hopes to do and that it may be launched as early as next month.
EPA held a public hearing on 28-29 November on its proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Yesterday the agency said it would hold three more public hearings on the rule in California, Wyoming and Missouri. The comment period on the proposed repeal is scheduled to close on 16 January.