EPA defends outreach on carbon rules amid GOP attacks

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday defended the scope of its outreach on climate change regulations as coal country lawmakers accuse the agency of turning a blind eye to their states.

“In carrying our [sic] President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is conducting unprecedented and vigorous outreach and public engagement with key stakeholders and the general public,” said Janet McCabe, the agency’s top air pollution regulator, in a blog post Friday afternoon.

The EPA is under fire from lawmakers over the agency’s ongoing “listening session” tour on planned emissions rules for existing power plants. The 11-city roadshow of hearings doesn’t include stops in West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming and some other coal-producing states.

Eleven Senate Republicans, in a letter to EPA released Friday, bashed the tour and claimed the regulations will hurt the economy.

“As your regulations will likely have a significant negative impact on the use and development of coal, and the livelihoods and energy bills for folks across rural America, it only makes sense that you should actually go to the areas that will be most impacted by your policies,” states the letter spearheaded by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

“Unfortunately, it appears your listening tour will merely rubber stamp whatever pre-conceived policy this Administration was planning on pursuing in the first place,” the letter adds.

It’s the latest attack in weeks of criticism of the 11-city tour about the rules for currently operating power plants that EPA plans to propose in draft form next year.

But McCabe, in her blog post, says EPA is conducting a broad outreach campaign that includes both the tour and many other efforts.

“In preparing the guidelines for existing power plants, EPA leadership, including Administrator [Gina] McCarthy, has been meeting with industry leaders and CEOs from the coal, oil, and natural gas sectors,” McCabe said.

“We’ve been working with everyone from governors, mayors, Members of Congress, state and local government officials – from every region of the country — to environmental groups, health organizations, faith groups, and many others,” adds McCabe, who is acting administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation.

She also notes that the formal proposal that EPA plans to issue in June will touch off still more public input.

According to the GOP letter, the EPA listening tour will miss 17 of the top 20 coal-burning states and 16 of the top 20 coal-producing states.

McCabe's blog post notes that the effects of climate change are felt nationwide, ranging from more severe Western wildfire seasons to Midwestern drought to coastal sea-level rise.