The House Energy and Power Subcommittee will hear from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at a hearing on "The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policies and Activities" on September 18. The hearing comes two days before President Obama's deadline for EPA to propose a new rule for limiting emissions of greenhouse gases from new power plants -- a rule that congressional Republicans and industry interests hope either to block or to place strict limits on. The hearing is also expected to raise oversight questions about Obama's Climate Action Plan, which consists of executive branch actions most of which do not require new congressional action.
Hearing on The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policies and Activities, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 10:15 am EDT. Background Memo on the hearing prepared by Majority staff. The hearing will be webcast live and archived.
Witnesses: Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Ernest Moniz, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
"I think it's very important that we be aware of what unilateral action through regulation and executive orders the administration is looking at," Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) told Environment & Energy Daily.
E&E Daily reported (subscription required) on September 11 that Whitfield "is preparing a bill that would require U.S. EPA to craft a new power plant carbon rule that can be satisfied by the more-efficient power plants utilities already are building. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) has said his bill will not repeat the numerous efforts by the chamber's Republicans to roll back EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Instead, it will specify that those rules cannot require reductions that are more stringent than can be achieved by supercritical power plants. Industry experts who have advised EPA say those state-of-the-art, coal-fired power plants emit between 1,900 and 2,200 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour."
A draft rule proposed by EPA last year set the limit at 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour -- a standard that could be met by a natural gas combined-cycle plant but not by a coal-fired power plant unless it used carbon capture and sequestration. A revised EPA proposal due out this week may set a higher limit for new power plants, at 1,300 or 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour according to some sources. This would still appear to require carbon capture and sequestration, forcing the regulated industry to bring that new technology to commercial viability or forego building new coal-fired plants. Whether future coal-fired plants with the added cost of CCS could be economically competitive with natural gas, wind, or solar power is an empirical question. New coal-fired plants with existing technology are not competitive now.
Whether this controversy over EPA rulemaking will consume the hearing, or whether additional topics will get some play, remains to be seen.
Posts on Obama Climate Action Plan
GOP continues attacks on new EPA greenhouse gas rules (September 27, 2012)