- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A coalition of top business groups expressed rising concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants, demanding more time Tuesday to respond and eyeing a legal battle against the Obama administration if necessary.

The EPA early last month rolled out new proposed rules that would require power plants to slash carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb air pollution and fight climate change.

But industry leaders and some conservative critics argue that the rules as they stand are impossible for states to achieve and would cripple the national economy in return for negligible emissions reductions.

SEE ALSO: New EPA rules could burn coal state Democrats

“If President Obama wishes to have his legacy described as an unprecedented assault on America’s poor and working families, then this proposal will achieve that,” said Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

The EPA plans four public hearings on its plans, which call for the states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants now operating by an average of 30 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

Mr. Drevna and other industry leaders argued that the regulations would increase electricity costs exponentially across the board, hurting consumers and manufacturers and pushing jobs overseas.

SEE ALSO: New EPA rules cast cloud over coal industry

“If this president desires to have his legacy be celebrated in China, Russia and India then by all means, carry on with this regulation,” Mr. Drevna added.

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that the EPA’s analysis doesn’t take into account how the new rules will affect manufacturing industries.

“We’re all going to tell the EPA this regulation is simply not workable,” said Mr. Timmons, revealing that he and other leaders from the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, a coalition which represents 80 percent of the country’s energy industries, had sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy listing their concerns.

“What we’re calling for from the EPA is transparency, a two-way conversation,” said Karen Harbert, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

An EPA spokeswoman in an email to The Washington Times said the agency will respond to the business coalition’s letter, but also noted there has been a huge outpouring of comments from all sides on the power plant regulation.

“In the first 25 business days following the proposal, we have met with 60 groups and we are continuing our outreach through the 120-day comment period. In addition, the agency anticipates hearing from about 1,600 people at the four public hearings scheduled for later this month,” the email said, adding, “EPA considers all comments equally, no matter how they are submitted.”

Separately, a leading environmental group accused the “big polluters” of “seeking to protect their profits over public health.”

“The fact is climate change is a serious health threat and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the most important step we can take to protect Americans and future generations,” said Peter Altman, an official at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We limit the smog, soot and mercury pollution from power plants. It’s time to do that for carbon pollution as well.”

But Ms. Harbert said that the EPA’s 120-day period allowed for states to come up with emission reduction plans of this scale was simply not feasible.

“The administration has taken far longer to review the Keystone pipeline, which pales in comparison in terms of complexity,” she argued.

Some experts believe that the EPA does not have the legal authority to mandate the restructuring or closure of power plants now in operation.

On June 23, the Supreme Court upheld a 2007 ruling that the EPA did have the authority to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant, but said the agency overreached its authority by claiming power to regulate smaller emitters.

The high court “provided a lot of insight to the EPA in what they can and cannot do and what they can and cannot regulate and we will certainly be reviewing that,” Ms. Harbert said.

Mr. Timmons said, “Assuming all things stay as they are, I think it’s pretty safe to say you’ll see some action in the courts.”

The EPA’s Ms. McCarthy could face some pointed questioning when she testifies Wednesday morning before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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