Congress Scrutinizes Power Plant Emissions

By Published On: June 19, 2014

Still debating the immediacy of global warming, the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works hosted a panel that encouraged Congressional action June 18. “Power plants account for nearly 40 percent of all carbon pollution released into the air,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), committee chair, said. The Environmental Protection Agency proposes adopting regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the federal Clean Air Act (Current, June 13, 2014). The move prompted the committee to hold hearings on whether climate change is worth the impact of the regulation change. Senators contested whether global warming exists, and if it does, whether it’s the government’s responsibility and in the country’s economic interest to address it. Cutting back on fossil-fueled electric consumption hits low-income ratepayers, and thus, should not be addressed, according to Sen. John Boozman (R-AR). Coal regions are “under attack,” with the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “new source performance standards,” Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) claimed June 19 in a related hearing by the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) strongly disagreed, and applauded the agency for “encouraging flexibility.” The revision to section 111(d) of the 1970 federal Clean Air Act allows for state flexibility in controlling power plant pollution (Current, June 13, 2014). There’s been “great state interest” in developing the plan, said Janet McCabe, agency acting assistant administration for air & radiation. The proposed rule allows states, for instance, to:  • Develop or expand energy efficiency or demand-response programs;  • Require some marginal efficiency improvements in existing coal power plants;  • Encourage new natural gas plants to provide baseload power;  • Work with grid operators to get them to ease off on dispatching coal plants; and  • Join with other states to create regional plans that allow emissions trading. States would have the next several years to develop their plans. They wouldn’t have to begin making reductions until 2020.

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