EPA confident in climate rule’s future

EPA confident in climate rule’s future
© Thinkstock

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is confident that neither a federal court nor a future president could overturn its landmark climate rule for power plants.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyIt's time for Congress to address the 'forever chemical' crisis Overnight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage MORE said the rule is squarely legal under the Clean Air Act, and it’d be extraordinarily difficult for a future president, hostile to the regulation, to undo it.

ADVERTISEMENT

“When people get their arms around the final rule, they’ll see that it is legally solid,” McCarthy said Tuesday during an event organized by Resources for the Future, a nonprofit think tank.

“People will debate that, as they’ve debated everything, they will do that endlessly. But we feel pretty good about it,” she added.

McCarthy’s speech was the first time she had spoken publicly since the August 3 rollout of the rule by President Obama.

It asks the power sector to reduce its carbon emissions nationally by 32 percent, with each state having its own targets and leeway in implementing them.

Since the announcement, opponents have discussed various strategies to block or overturn the rules, focused mostly on the courts or waiting for a Republican president.

But McCarthy tried to shut down hopes of both strategies on Tuesday.

“The question that many of us ask after that is, ‘Well, what about the next administration?’” McCarthy said.

“When you have a final Clean Air Act rule, it’s a pretty solid obligation, and you need to have a substantial record indicating that things like the Endangerment Finding, which the Supreme Court has spoken to a number of times,” she said, referring to the EPA’s 2009 conclusion that greenhouse gases are harmful and should be regulated.

“A new administration, I think, will hopefully want to continue to support this,” McCarthy said of the next president. “And I think they’ll see state plans in and moving forward, a significant number, by the time there’s any transition in administration. And for those that don’t want to, it’s quite a significant hurdle for them to reverse this.”

McCarthy repeated many of the benefits of the rule that she had spoken about before it was released and that other administration officials have highlighted.

But she also said that the critics of the rule are overwhelmingly wrong about its impacts.

“They’ll say we’ve got to focus on the economy at the expense of the environment. They’ll claim our plan will shut the lights off or send utility bills through the roof,” she said. “Well, they are absolutely wrong.”

She went back to a frequent example from the EPA, its program in the 1990s to reduce emissions that cause acid rain.

“They predicted total doomsday,” McCarthy said. “That didn’t happen.”

Instead, those pollutants fell 60 percent, while electricity prices remained stable, she said.