Departing EPA chief rebukes House GOP

Outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said House Republicans are on the wrong side of public opinion with their push to scuttle or delay several EPA regulations.

“One of the questions everyone is asking themselves is whether the U.S. House of Representatives is actually going to reflect the will of the people on a lot of these issues, and the will of the people is awfully clear,” Jackson told USA Today in an interview.

Jackson has been a frequent target of Republicans who say EPA policies — especially new air pollution standards for power plants — are hurting the coal industry, manufacturers and other sectors of the economy.

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But EPA defenders say rules such as air toxics limits for coal-fired power plants and toughened air quality standards for soot are much-needed and, in some cases, long-overdue public health protections.

The House approved several bills last year to block the air toxics rules, scuttle EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions and thwart several other policies, but the measures did not gain Senate traction.

Jackson announced in late December that she’s leaving the agency some time after President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address.

House Republicans say they plan to continue focusing on EPA rules they call too aggressive.

“We will not stand idly by as the EPA seeks to regulate coal into oblivion – House Republicans will continue pursuing sensible policies that ensure coal remains a prominent fixture in our ‘all of the above’ pursuit of North American energy independence,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement earlier this week.

His Wednesday statement followed an announcement by Georgia Power, a subsidiary of utility giant Southern Co., of plans to shut down a number of coal-fired power generating units.

A number of other companies have also announced plans to retire some coal-fired plants.

Georgia Power cited the cost of complying with environmental regulations, low prices for natural gas (a competing fuel source) and other economic factors.

Jackson has said it’s the U.S. natural-gas supply boom and low gas prices, not regulations, that are creating the biggest problems for the coal industry.

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