A House panel today tussled over whether U.S. EPA’s premier greenhouse gas rule is an illegal effort by the Obama administration to reshape the electric power system or a stimulus for new industries.Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who heads a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee, blasted the existing power plant proposal as a bid by EPA to “take control of our nation’s electric system without any legal or scientific justification.” “The rule has the potential to shut down power plants across the nation, raise energy prices and threaten energy security,” she said.
The proposed U.S. EPA rules to limit carbon emissions at existing power plants could require an overhaul of how grid operators line up electricity supply, causing significant confusion in power markets, according to federal energy regulators. Philip Moeller, a Republican commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, confirmed that switching electric markets to power dispatch based on lowest carbon emissions instead of the current system that is based on lowest-priced supply would require approval from FERC and “a complete redesign of markets to include essentially a carbon fee on any resources that emit carbon dioxide,” according to his answers to preliminary questions to the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Tony Clark, another Republican commissioner, made similar points in his preliminary answers.
The most important climate change hearing in town today will be held miles down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol Building, but the listening session on U.S. EPA’s marquee carbon rule is still drawing plenty of congressional interest. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a sponsor of the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill that cleared the House in 2009, will be among the first to testify on the existing power plant proposal this morning as the two-day listening session begins. Markey commended EPA in prepared remarks for a draft rule that he said would make sure “millions of Americans are healthier” and create jobs. But he blasted Republicans for attacking the rule on economic grounds.
Hundreds of supporters of the Obama administration’s flagship climate change rule turned the grounds around the U.S. EPA headquarters into a green carnival this morning as the agency opened the first public hearings on the proposal in Washington, D.C. Stoking enthusiasm outside the William Jefferson Clinton Building was Ben & Jerry’s, which handed out free cookie dough and fudge ice cream to rule backers — notably children organized by the Moms Clean Air Task Force. The group is also staging “play-ins” at the other three EPA listening sessions this week in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh.
en. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday that he had proposed amendments that would restore the tax credits for wind energy and biodiesel production. Both measures would amend the Bring Jobs Home Act, which seeks to discourage outsourcing jobs by ending certain tax credits. The wind and biodiesel incentives, popular in Iowa because they benefits industries common to the state, expired last year.
U.S. EPA won’t be alone in holding climate change hearings this week. Three congressional committees will also mull the issue, which has been characterized as both the gravest challenge facing future generations and — in the words of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — “the greatest hoax ever to be perpetrated on the American people.”
“Safe, reliable and affordable” is the mantra of the regulators and utilities of the nation’s electricity grid that is at the heart of the U.S. economy. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power is turning to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for answers in a hearing tomorrow as to whether U.S. electricity will still be safe, reliable and affordable if the recently proposed U.S. EPA regulations on carbon emissions at existing power plants are enacted.
Among all the states that have mandated renewable energy targets, California leads the pack. Under the Global Warming Solutions Act — signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2006 — the state must receive 33 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and lower its emissions by 80 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2050.
Xcel Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ben Fowke may have found the sweet spot as the leader of one of the nation’s largest utility holding companies. It’s not that his four regulated utilities with operations in eight states aren’t challenged by the multiple trends shaking up the electricity industry across the U.S. They certainly are.
More than 1,000 clean-air advocates are en route to Atlanta. Those against U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon rules for existing power plants will be there in full force, too.