EPA Continues Its Public Listening Sessions

EPA listeningThis past September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new proposed rule under the auspices of the Clean Air Act (CAA) limiting carbon emissions from power plants built in the future.  EPA is currently working on developing similar regulations targeting existing fossil fuel fired power plants which are expected to be announced in June 2014.

Over the past couple of weeks, EPA has hosted 11 listening sessions around the country ostensibly soliciting ideas from the public to help determine what the best way to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants under the CAA is. There has been growing criticism that these listening sessions are excluding significant numbers of stakeholders. Specifically, EPA is bypassing 16 of the top 20 coal producing states, including Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and 16 of the top 20 coal burning states.

On Thursday, November 7th, EPA held a listening session in Washington, DC at their national headquarters. John Eick, Legislative Analyst for ALEC’s Energy, Environment & Agriculture Task Force, delivered the following remarks to a panel of three EPA staffers:

“Good afternoon, my name is John Eick.  I am a Legislative Analyst with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the largest voluntary membership organization of state legislators in the country.

When Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1970s, it had a vision for national environmental policymaking known as cooperative federalism.  In practice, cooperative federalism means that EPA and the states would work together in order to effectively balance economic progress and development with environmental protection.

Under this federalist arrangement, Congress intended for states to be first among equals.  This is clearly highlighted in the preamble of the Clean Air Act, which says that “air pollution prevention…at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments.”  And this makes sense because the preponderance of pollution is local and it is an axiom of American political history that local officials are best suited to solve unique local problems.

Over the past several years, however, EPA has started replacing this principle of cooperate federalism with command and control.  EPA’s plan to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is a great example of this shift.

Pursuant to section 111(D) of the Clean Air Act, EPA is statutorily limited to merely establishing a procedure by which states can submit plans for regulating existing sources of greenhouse gases. This section does not grant EPA the power to create rules establishing standards. This is a critical distinction. 

Again, I would bring your attention back to the principles of cooperative federalism that I mentioned earlier.  This section of the Clean Air Act clearly delineates explicit roles for both EPA and the states to follow – explicit roles that, unfortunately, EPA is failing to abide by.

By undercutting cooperative federalism in this manner, EPA is undermining good policymaking and sensible environmental regulation.

I appreciate your time and attention.”

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