By MARK DRAJEM
The nation gets its chance this week to blast or praise the
Environmental Protection Agencys sweeping plan to cut
climate-warming emissions by 2030.
al advocates and
citizens will sound off at EPA hearings starting Tuesday in
Atlanta, Denver and Washington about the 645-page proposal,
unveiled two months ago, to limit carbon
from power plants. A
two-day hearing in Pittsburgh starts July 31.
The agency says more than 1,600 people are scheduled to speak
and by last week all slots were filled in Atlanta, Denver and
About 300,000 comments already have been submitted on the
power-plant rule, with weeks to go before the deadline. And
683 businesses and nonprofit groups registered to lobby the
EPA this year, more than any other federal department, the
Center for Responsive Politics reported.
This is the main event for climate action in this
administration, Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the
Georgetown Climate Center, said in an interview. EPA
actually crafted it to be a very broad approach, and so that
brings in a large number of actors.
Analysts say the plan could cut coal use by almost half,
while boosting power generated from natural gas, nuclear
plants and renewable energy. Environment
al advocates say such a
shift is long overdue. Many business lobbyists say the change
could cause electricity prices to rise and damage fledgling
industries. That fight flared last week in anticipation of
this weeks public hearings.
Business groups appealed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
to scrap the plan, saying it goes beyond whats allowed
by law and requires fossil-fuel plants to seek reductions
from other sources, like getting customers to curb their
It is clear that the rule presents a significant threat
to American jobs and the economy, the US Chamber of
Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and dozens of
other groups wrote in a letter to McCarthy. We
therefore urge EPA to go back to the drawing board on this
McCarthy dismissed those warnings today, and pledged to sit
down with states and utilities to help work through the
We know the purpose of this rule is so important, and
thats why weve been so focused on the
process, McCarthy told reporters on a call to discuss
the series of hearings.
Before the plan was issued, the Chamber released an estimate
of the damage the economy, saying the rules cost could
be $50 billion a year. That estimate was challenged by the
EPA because it wasnt based on any plan from the agency.
Now that the proposal is out, the group says it would be too
difficult to analyze the actual proposal because the EPA set
targets state by state.
It would require 49 different models, said Karen
Harbert, the head of the Chambers energy institute.
(Vermont has no fossil-fuel power plants, and so no required
About 3,000 coal miners, vendors and coal-town residents say
they will rally across the river from the Pittsburgh meeting
site, trying to stop a rule they call EPAs most
On the other side, environmental and health groups are
organizing hundreds of supporters to testify, and are airing
television advertisements in the four cities that call the
Chambers economic estimate fiction.
This shows that the polluters and their allies are
desperate, Gene Karpinski, president of the League of
Conservation Voters, said in a telephone briefing. The EPA
plan is the single biggest step that the government has
taken to reduce carbon
Karpinski said that more than 4 million people submitted
comments on a separate EPA proposal covering new power
plants, and said he and his allies also would be rounding up
support for the proposal on existing plants. Separately, a
radio advertisement from the consumer group Public Citizen
will target Murray Energy Corp., the Pepper Pike, Ohio-based
coal producer that filed suit to stop the EPA in its tracks.
To be sure, both supporters and critics have their own ideas
for changes. Environment
al groups want
deadlines tightened so emissions
are cut sooner, and
think states can ramp up use of renewable power and energy
efficiency more effectively than the agency had predicted.
It is a very good and historic start. But it can, and
should, set more ambitious carbon-reduction goals, Ed
Chen, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council,
said in an e-mail. The standards significantly
underestimate the carbon- reduction contributions by energy
efficiency, solar and wind power as clean replacements for
dirty, retiring coal plants.
Industry groups say EPAs calculations may inadvertently
harm nuclear plants, which emit zero carbon, and in some
cases call on shuttered natural-gas plants to replace coal.
Also, the EPA both assumes coal plants will be more efficient
and run less, which would make them less efficient.
The June 2 proposal from the EPA sets standards for each
state based on the carbon
from their coal and
gas-fired power plants, and then used a formula based on
available natural-gas capacity, renewables use and energy use
cuts to set state goals for cuts by 2030. Those cuts start to
phase in in 2020.
from power plants fell
about 15% from 2005 through last year, actual reductions are
much smaller. The EPA said it would lead to $90 billion in
climate and health benefits, and cost utilities as much as
And, not every business group opposes the plan. Business
Forward, which represents companies such as Cheniere Energy,
Ford Motor, Google and Pacific Gas & Electric, hosted a
call with McCarthy July 24 to rally support for combating
Inaction on dealing with climate change is an economic threat
at the moment, and the plan can be a benefit to the economy,
McCarthy told them.
Businesses are paying the brunt of a changing
climate, McCarthy told the business group. We can
turn these climate risks into real opportunities.