Technology Inadequate to Meet EPA’s Proposed Power Plant Rule

Oct 29, 2013

The Environment and Energy Subcommittees today held a joint hearing to explore the technological basis for concluding that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is adequately demonstrated as a technology for controlling carbon dioxide emissions in full-scale commercial power plants. Witnesses discussed and debated EPA’s assessment that CCS has been “adequately demonstrated.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “If you take a look at the EPA’s rule on air quality standards, the proposal looks more like a legal brief than a rule about protecting the air. It appears the EPA is up to an old legal trick:  If you can’t win the argument on the merits, start arguing about the definition of words. In this proposal, the EPA re-defines the law to accommodate its ever-expanding regulatory agenda.”

The EPA recently announced it is moving forward with proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for emissions of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Studies have verified that implementation of CCS technology will be necessary to comply with the proposed CO2 targets.

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah): “When the facts and experts make clear the technology is not ready, there is no need to model emissions levels or ask economists to make projections. EPA’s rule won’t be implemented in a fairy tale world. Talk of emissions levels and cost based on a hypothetical modeling scenario is just a bunch of noise - a distraction from the fact that the technology isn’t ready.”

There are currently no electric power plants operating with the CCS technology on a commercial scale.  And witnesses today projected that affordable solutions may still be decades away.

Energy Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.): “The Obama administration has spent much of the past few years casting coal as a villain.  This regulation effectively bans the building of new coal plants, and fulfills President Obama’s campaign promise to ‘bankrupt’ coal companies. If EPA is allowed to twist the definition of ‘adequately demonstrated’ to include yet-to-be-proven technologies for power plants, there is also little to stop EPA from doing the same for other manufacturers like refiners, cement or steel plants.  Not only would this throw our economy into tail-spin, it would force manufacturers to flee to countries with less strict environmental requirements, costing jobs and increasing global emissions.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittees:

The Honorable Charles McConnell, Executive Director, Energy & Environment Initiative, Rice University

Dr. Richard Bajura, Director, National Research Center for Coal and Energy, West Virginia University

Mr. Kurt Waltzer, Managing Director, The Clean Air Task Force

Mr. Roger Martella, Partner, Environmental Practice Group, Sidley Austin LLP