Vitter Summary Statement for Full Committee Nominations Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Full Committee Nominations Hearing”
April 8, 2014
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and welcome to the three nominees: Janet McCabe; Ann Dunkin; and Manuel Ehrlich, Jr. While I appreciate everyone taking the time to join us today, I would like to focus on Ms. McCabe and her Agency for the next few minutes.
As you know, for some time we have been engaged in a sustained effort to bring greater transparency to EPA's activities. Sometimes we have been successful, but generally, getting clear, understandable answers and data from the Agency remains a challenge. Ms. McCabe has been at EPA for a number of years, first as the now-Administrator McCarthy's second-in-command, and currently as the acting Assistant Administrator leading the Air Office. She has enjoyed a front row seat during our prolonged efforts with EPA and should be well aware of the expectations of the role she is stepping into - to make this EPA part of the most transparent Administration in history. It is time to stop just talking about it and finally shed some light on Agency processes.
There are many issues I could discuss today, but I want to focus on just three for the time being.
The first is electricity reliability. While we've depended on a diverse electricity generation portfolio, which includes coal, natural gas, and nuclear, EPA's regulatory onslaught targeting power generation makes the future look less certain. American Electric Power's CEO stated that "89% of our coal capacity slated for retirement in mid-2015" was providing the power necessary to meet current demand.
EIA projects additional coal-fired power plant retirements in addition to those already scheduled for 2016. While existing EPA regulations contribute to these plant closures, the pending actions under the President's Climate Action Plan pile on the consequences to electricity reliability and affordability. The most damaging rules - GHG performance standards for power plants, 316(b), and a pending revision to the ozone standard - remain to be finished and imposed on the American consumer.
The second is the greenhouse gas emission performance standards for power plants. The rule for existing sources is going to affect over 1,500 fossil fuel plants in the U.S., including nearly 560 coal-fired power plants. The President set a deadline of June 1st that the Agency appears on track to meet, yet none of us in this room know the exact contents of the proposal except for the nominee.
The rule for new sources had to be re-proposed after receiving over 2 million comments. Clearly, something was seriously wrong, but I can't say that the new version is a rousing success either. Any contemplation of building new coal-fired power plants will require the use of technologies that are not adequately demonstrated at a commercial scale and are based on three incomplete, inoperable projects that are funded by the government. In other words, EPA is mandating a regulation based on fiction.
Increased regulation by EPA through these performance standards has the potential to result in jobs lost across the economy, electricity reliability issues, and increased electric bills.
The third is the social cost of carbon. We have been over this a number of times, and it continues to concern me that direct answers to the simplest of questions and requests remain unfilled. I have asked EPA why they ignored OMB guidance and did not run the social cost of carbon estimate at a 7% discount rate. This is simple and easy to do, but it remains undone, because, I can only assume, of obstinacy among some at EPA. Why does the most transparent Administration in history fear transparency?
I remain concerned that an assessment of the social cost of carbon just with respect to the United States, rather than focusing on whatever global benefits could be found in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, remains undone. While the Administration expects other governments to consider the global consequences of their emissions, the burden of compliance with EPA's GHG regulations is required and felt here at home. To date, the social cost of carbon is used in 28 EPA rules. It is a significant estimate that needs to be fully understood before being allowed to be used in such a haphazard manner.
EPA is in the process of crafting proposed revisions to the national air quality ozone standard, which the Agency previously, estimated could cost taxpayers $90 billion annually. Louisiana will be particularly hard-hit, and most of my state could be plunged into nonattainment after struggling to achieve the 1997 and 2008 standards. My state is not alone in this: most of the U.S., including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone would be unable to comply with the levels the Agency ponders purposing.
These are only a few of the issues I have with the way EPA runs things. In each instance, the Agency seems to be prepared to select the most difficult, most painful, least understandable, and least transparent path.
I hope Ms. McCabe will work with us to change that.