Senate Republicans have released more emails suggesting environmental groups played a key part in crafting the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming rule for power plants.
In particular, Republicans have highlighted emails suggesting the EPA and environmental lobbyists were cooking up ways to use the agency’s new climate rule for power plants to keep states from writing their own emissions reduction plans.
“There was clearly a coordinated plan to undermine the States’ input in developing and implementing the devastating carbon rule,” Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, the the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.
The email release is part of an ongoing investigation by Republican lawmakers into the alleged collusion between the EPA and lobbyists with the Natural Resource Defense Council, an influential environmental group. The investigation into EPA-NRDC collusion kicked off this summer after the New York Times published an article claiming a report released by NRDC on reducing emissions from power plants served as the “blueprint” for the EPA’s controversial rule.
“This new evidence shows the NRDC suggesting to the EPA that they could manipulate deadlines and court precedents in order to force through a ‘one-size-fits-all’ federal plan, and cut out the States,” said Vitter.
“We know from similar email discoveries that EPA took direction from NRDC in developing the rule, but now we also know EPA efforts at a full federal takeover are seriously being discussed with the one organization having the most influence at EPA.”
As evidence, Vitter’s staff released an email from Dave Hawkins, the director of climate programs at NRDC, to Joe Goffman, associate assistant administrator and senior counsel at the EPA’s clean air office.
Hawkin’s June 2013 reads: “As long as the compliance date for the [Federal Implementation Plan (FIP)] 111(d) emission limits is a few years after the [State Implementation Plan (SIP)] submission deadline, it appears that EPA can promulgate backstop FIP limits even in advance of the June 2016 SIP submission date.”
The EPA’s climate rule aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Under this rule, states will be required to meet different climate goals and submit plans to the EPA to illustrate how emissions cuts will be made.
According to Vitter, emails like this one show how EPA and NRDC were going to use the Clean Air Act to force federal plans onto states before they can even draft their own plans based on a previous federal court ruling.
“The Clean Power Plan was developed through an extensive public outreach process—one that engaged tens of thousands of people across the country,” an EPA spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to Vitter’s email release.
“This is a flawed narrative driven by cherry picked and isolated communications that in no way reflect the full breadth and depth of the unprecedented outreach EPA engaged in to formulate and develop the Clean Power Plan,” the agency spokeswoman continued. “We are more than happy to work with the committees to demonstrate the facts and show the extraordinary engagement efforts by EPA in developing this proposal.”
The NRDC did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
The EPA unveiled its climate rule for power plants this summer as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to fight global warming. The rule was welcomed by most Democrats and environmentalists, but derided by Republicans and the coal industry.
Critics of the rule say it will result in more coal-fired power plant closures which could harm the reliability of the electrical grid. Various grid operators have voiced concerns about reliability troubles from shuttering coal plants and potential electricity prices increases.
“The anticipated retirement of up to half of the existing coal capacity in the ERCOT region will pose challenges to reliable operation of the grid in replacing the dispatchable generation capacity and reliability services provided by these resources,” the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) wrote in its analysis of the EPA’s rule.
“If the proposed Clean Power Plan remains as is, the bulk electric system will be at serious risk of violating these [voltage limits],” the Southwest Power Pool wrote to the EPA, echoing ERCOT’s concerns. SPP’s grid “will experience numerous thermal overloads and low voltage occurrences.”
Many states have also come out against the rule and asked the EPA to revise it or repeal it altogether.
“[T]he Proposed Rule would usurp the energy producing states’ authority to ‘establish’ performance standards by dictating what the standards must be,” reads a letter obtained by TheDCNF from high-ranking from 12 states, led by North Dakota’s chief environmental officer at the Department of Health.
A coalition of 12 states, led by West Virginia, have sued the EPA over its climate rule, saying the agency has overreached in its authority.
“Our system doesn’t allow federal agencies to ‘improve’ or ‘fix’ laws to advance an agenda,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who joined West Virginia in the lawsuit. “But that is what happened here: the EPA made a promise in 2011 to expand its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.”
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