the weeks and months preceding EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), a handful of institutes, environmental groups and industry associations released separate and sometimes dueling reports on the expected costs of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The most widely cited of these — an estimate by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued in March, and another by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released some weeks later — painted highly divergent pictures of how the CPP’s costs may play out with the NRDC’s estimate predicting widespread societal benefit and the chamber’s foreseeing a steadily accumulating economic burden. So with EPA’s own estimate now before the public, is it time to shelve the prior reports? Not quite, say their authors. While already working to update their projections, both proponents and opponents of the CPP say the rationales that underpinned their past estimates still hold and may provide a basis to challenge the plan in the future.
Four former Republican U.S. EPA administrators praised the agency’s climate change rule for existing power plants today in a Senate hearing room packed with coal miners expressing fear that the proposal would strangle their industry. The administrators told an Environment and Public Works subcommittee that current Administrator Gina McCarthy did what the Clean Air Act required in her proposal aimed at curbing the power sector’s greenhouse gases. The rule was printed in the Federal Register today, beginning a four-month public comment period.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t get exactly what he wanted in the highly anticipated Senate committee vote yesterday on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s next chairman, but that’s not stopping him from cooperating to advance the agency’s nominees. Reid, who has repeatedly expressed his deepening interest in the powerful energy agency, had pushed hard for presidential nominee Norman Bay to be immediately installed as FERC’s next chairman. But the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday voted to approve Bay as a commissioner only after the White House agreed he would remain a commissioner for at least nine months before taking the agency’s helm.
ENR Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told reporters after the meeting that she has assurances from the White House that Bay will serve as a commissioner for nine months before ascending to chairman. During that time, LaFleur will continue to lead the agency. “The president as I understand is very happy to have both of his [nominees] moving forward,” she said, adding that President Obama has signaled he will elevate Bay to chairman after nine months. “It satisfies some of the concerns that I thought were legitimate.”
A new political group backed by billionaire Republican donors Charles and David Koch plans to spend millions of dollars on energy-related issues in the midterm elections. The oil magnate Koch brothers unveiled the super political action committee, Freedom Partners Action Fund, at a closed-door conference with GOP donors over the weekend near Laguna Beach, Calif. Freedom Partners, run by a former Koch Industries lobbyist, plans to spend more than $13 million on anti-environmental messaging as part of a reported $290 million election-year effort to help elect conservative candidates.
The Interior Department today will announce plans to auction more than 1,100 square miles of waters off the Massachusetts coast for offshore wind projects, the largest lease sale of its kind in U.S. history. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is scheduled to make the announcement this afternoon in Boston alongside Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acting Director Walter Cruickshank.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today left the door open to delaying the ascension of Norman Bay, President Obama’s choice for chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Reid, whose interest in FERC runs deep, said in a brief interview that he would be inclined to support whatever solution Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) advances to a bipartisan impasse over installing Bay immediately as chairman. When asked if that would extend to backing a delay in Bay’s move to the helm, however, Reid stopped short of full assent.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) decision to get involved in choosing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s next chairman is creating “dysfunction” at the agency and threatening its ability to function properly, a member of the commission said yesterday. John Norris, a Democratic member of FERC, during an interview yesterday expressed concerns that the commission, an arcane yet powerful agency that oversees the U.S. electric grid and natural gas infrastructure and pipelines, is being subjected to too much political pressure. “It’s concerning that an independent agency responsible for regulatory decisions has become so overly politicized,” Norris said.
U.S. EPA will publish its proposal to limit existing power plant carbon dioxide emissions tomorrow in the Federal Register, marking the opening of a 120-day public comment period. But as interest groups prepare comments for and against the proposal, and states continue to assess its impact, Capitol Hill remains deadlocked over how or whether to respond to the rule. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) have introduced legislation in their respective chambers to prevent EPA from implementing the rule unless several agencies certify it would have no negative economic impact.
Reining in U.S. power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions may be one of President Obama’s top priorities, but it’ll be his successor who’ll have to finish the job — or try to undo it. The proposal for curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants that U.S. EPA rolled out on June 2 set in motion events that won’t be wrapped up by the time a new president is sworn in January 2017. “The outcome of the 2016 presidential election will be extremely important to the future of these rules,” said Michael Gerrard, climate law director at Columbia Law School. “If the American people elect a Republican president who adheres to the current party position on climate regulation, it’s likely that EPA implementation of the rules will stop, and there will be an effort to repeal them.”