EPA’s ‘lis­ten­ing ses­sions’ on new rules held in cities, skirt coal towns

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

San Fran­cisco and Seat­tle are syn­ony­mous with the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment, not coal min­ing — but that hasn’t stopped the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion from hold­ing “lis­ten­ing ses­sions” in those and other ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas to hear ques­tions, con­cerns and com­plaints about its new global-warm­ing reg­u­la­tions.

The meet­ings, hosted at En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency re­gional of­fices across the na­tion, in­clud­ing one at its D.C. of­fice Thurs­day, are part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pub­lic out­reach cam­paign as it im­ple­ments harsh new lim­its on carbon emis­sions from power plants.

Those reg­u­la­tions — which al­ready have been re­leased for fu­ture plants and are un­der de­vel­op­ment for ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties — are ex­pected to have dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts on coal plants, which sim­ply can’t meet the stan­dards with cur­rently avail­able, fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble tech­nol­ogy.

The rules are ex­pected to have a spillover ef­fect on the min­ing in­dus­try, as de­mand for the fuel would de­crease as U.S. power-gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties are forced to close.

While the EPA paints it­self as open to all points of view, crit­ics say the agency is in­ten­tion­ally avoid­ing towns that rely heav­ily on coal min­ing, or those that rely on coal-fired power plants to sup­port their lo­cal econ­omy.

“As the lis­ten­ing ses­sion tour con­cludes, it is in­creas­ingly clear EPA never wanted to lis­ten in the first place,” said Laura Shee­han, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Amer­i­can Coali­tion for Clean Coal Elec­tric­ity. “Th­ese lis­ten­ing ses­sions are just one more ex­am­ple of an ad­min­is­tra­tion that con­tin­ues to ex­clude from its rule-mak­ing process the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who stand to lose the most.”

The ses­sions con­tin­ued Thurs­day at EPA of­fices in Seat­tle, Dal­las and Wash­ing­ton. On Fri­day, the agency will host meet­ings in Philadel­phia and Chicago, the fi­nal stops on its tour.

Events also have been held in New York City, Chicago, Den­ver and other ma­jor cities.

The EPA has pushed back against charges it wants to avoid crit­ics and min­i­mize the com­plaints from coal pro­po­nents and the power-gen­er­a­tion sec­tor. Agency of­fi­cials say they’ve ac­tively reached out to and main­tained a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the fos­sil-fu­els sec­tor while writ­ing new cli­mate-change reg­u­la­tions.

“We’ve been work­ing with ev­ery­one,” said Janet McCabe, the EPA’s act­ing as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Of­fice of Air and Ra­di­a­tion, at the be­gin­ning of Thurs­day’s ses­sion in Wash­ing­ton. “We’re do­ing this be­cause we want to be open to any and all in­for­ma­tion about what is im­por­tant to each state and stake­holder. That’s what this process is all about.”

The cur­rent round of ses­sions specif­i­cally are fo­cused on up­com­ing EPA rules that would gov­ern ex­ist­ing power plants. Those reg­u­la­tions will have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate ef­fect on coal, which pro­vides about 40 per­cent of U.S. elec­tric­ity and re­mains a key part of economies across Ap­palachia, the Mid­west and else­where.

Two months ago, the agency re­leased new guide­lines for fu­ture power plants, a cen­tral com­po­nent of Pres­i­dent Obama’s am­bi­tious sec­ond-term global-warm­ing agenda.

The reg­u­la­tions limit coal fa­cil­i­ties to no more than 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour, a fig­ure that an­a­lysts say sim­ply can’t be met in a re­motely cost­ef­fec­tive way with to­day’s tech­nol­ogy.

Those con­cerns have been raised many times, but they would be brought di­rectly to EPA lead­ers if the agency vis­ited min­ing towns and ar­eas de­pen­dent on coal, crit­ics say.

Mem­bers of Congress from West Vir­ginia and else­where have in­vited the EPA to towns in their home states, with the goal of putting faces to the lost jobs the agency likely will cause if it moves for­ward with cur­rent pro­pos­als.

Thus far, the agency has in­stead re­lied only on ses­sions at its re­gional head­quar­ters.

“EPA seems to be go­ing out of its way dur­ing its lis­ten­ing tour to avoid those states that rely on coal the most for elec­tric­ity,” said Rep. Ed Whit­field, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House sub­com­mit­tee on En­ergy and Power. “EPA needs to come to coal coun­try and hear from the work­ers, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties that may suf­fer the most from the agency’s ac­tions.”

A pro­posal to limit carbon emis­sions from ex­ist­ing plants is sched­uled to be re­leased next sum­mer, the EPA said. Rules for new power plants are cur­rently open to pub­lic com­ment and will be fi­nal­ized in the com­ing months.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“EPA seems to be go­ing out of its way dur­ing its lis­ten­ing tour to avoid those states that rely on coal the most for elec­tric­ity,” said Rep. Ed Whit­field, of Ken­tucky.

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