House GOP launches probe into EPA rule

House Republicans launched a probe into a key pillar of the Obama administration's climate change regulations on Wednesday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced the investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon emissions limits on coal-fired power plants.

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GOP leaders on the committee sent a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy on Wednesday pressing for information on the proposed rule, and more specifically on what consideration there was by the agency of carbon-capture technology when drafting the greenhouse gas standards.

At issue are provisions under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which allow tax credits and the Energy Department to authorize funding for projects that use carbon-trapping technology for coal-fired projects.

House Republicans want to know if the EPA based the proposed rule for future coal-fired power plants on technology developed after that 2005 law, because the law states technology utilized in clean coal projects can't provide the basis for future regulation.

“We continue to have questions about EPA decisions concerning agency consideration of [carbon capture sequestration] technologies, and the information derived from use of these technologies, at facilities that have been receiving federal funding or tax credits authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005," the letter penned by Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Ed Whitfield (Ky.), and three other House Republicans states.

The rule, proposed by EPA in September, requires future power plants to curb pollution by trapping and storing a significant amount of carbon emissions.

To make sure EPA didn't breach its authority, the House Republicans are hunkering down and taking names. They want the names and titles of every EPA official involved in determining the rule didn't stray from the 2005 law, along with a slew of documents.

The move by House Republicans received praise from clean coal advocates.

“I’m glad that Chairmen Upton and Murphy and other members of the committee are going to get to the bottom of EPA’s process for making decisions that hurt American workers, put our electric grid at risk, and undermine our nation’s economy,” said Laura Sheehan of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

EPA hasn't backed down from attacks on its greenhouse gas rules, however, as it has released additional information in recent months to support its claim that the decision-making process behind its rule is solid. The agency says the rule is based on more than carbon capture technologies used at plants after 2005 and that carbon capture is in the green.

The Department of Energy has also backed the technology against GOP claims that carbon capture technologies are not ready to be used at coal-fired power plants and represent a de facto ban on future plants all together.