An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule limited carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants may not have been implemented promptly. The air pollution rule, which only affects new coal-burning power plants, was possibly delayed by mid-term election politics according to a GOP Senator.
The EPA’s proposed rule would impose tougher limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The tougher requirement would basically force new coal-fired power plants to install new carbon-capture technology, which critics claim is too costly.
In a letter to EPA Chief Gina McCarthy, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) questioned the agency’s delay in submitting a the new emissions rule to the Federal Register on November 25, over two months after the proposed rule had been released. Inhofe’s letter suggested that the delay may have resulted from a desire to reduce the impact of President Obama’s “harmful environmental policies” on the 2014 mid-term elections. The rule was finally published on January 8, 2014.
Inhofe cited a Politico story on the rule as evidence of an unnecessary delay. According to that story, the delay in releasing and submitting the rule prevented Republican lawmakers from voting to repeal it until January 2015, well after mid-term congressional elections.
Inhofe further stated that the delay contradicted congressional testimony earlier this year by McCarthy, who said that the rule was submitted to the Federal Register office as soon as it was released to the public on September 20, 2013. That delay means the proposal would not need to be finalized until well after the current election cycle.
Also in the letter to McCarthy, Inhofe notes that if the rule was finalized by September 20, 2014 the public would have only six weeks to consider the “negative impact” this new rule would have on the economy. This timeline, Inhofe suggests, indicates the rules were possibly delayed because of politics.
In January, McCarthy told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the EPA submitted the power plant rules for publication last fall and did attempt to get them published in the Federal Register in a timely manner . She attributed the publication delay on a backlog at the Federal Register office and to the government shutdown in early October.
After McCarthy’s testimony to the Committee, Inhofe wrote to Charles Barth, Director of the office, who informed the Senator that his office received the proposed EPA rule on November 25. Inhofe asked McCarthy for documents related to the rule’s delayed publication and on what role the White House Office of Management and Budget had in deciding when to submit the rule.
According to EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia, the agency’s rulemaking process varies for each rule. She said that the agency follows a number of processes to make sure that the rules are properly formatted, edited for consistency, and reviewed for quality before submitting the package to the Federal Register. Purchia also cited the October 1-16 government shutdown as a factor in the slow review and submission process.
McCarthy told the Committee that her office repeatedly asked when the rule would be published, as they were action to start the public review process. The EPA provided no evidence that it had asked why there was such a long delay.
Inhofe isn’t the only Republican to doubt that account of events. Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that the EPA is playing politics with “job killing” energy policy. Wilcox went on to accuse the EPA of attempting to aid vulnerable Democrats, so those politicians will help the EPA carry out a “radical cap-and-trade agenda.”
The latest proposed rule, released on September 20, was a revision of a 2012 draft rule that EPA had submitted that year to the Federal Register. That 2012 rule was published two weeks later, according to another letter than Senator Inhofe released.
McCarthy also came under fire this week for relying on undisclosed scientific data in decision-making. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee stated that relying on secret data is not sound silence and not good policy in a statement on Monday.
The air pollution rule may have been held up for mundane reasons, but certain GOP figures think the rule was possibly delayed for political reasons. The director of the EPA presents evidence to the contrary.
By Chester Davis