Julia Bell (House Natural Resources) - 202.226.9019
Kristina Baum (EPW) - 202.224.6176

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Adm. Gina McCarthy on the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Air Act rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. The letter also addresses EPA’s apparent failure to initiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the rules’ impacts on endangered and threatened species , as required by section seven of the Endangered Species Act. Manatees, which rely on the warm water discharge from coal-fired power plants during winter, are one endangered species that may be affected by the rules.

“In promulgating these Clean Air Act rules, EPA must carefully and lawfully consider all the effects of its rulemaking, including the effects on endangered and threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). However, as the rulemaking process concludes, it appears that EPA has not satisfied its obligations under section 7 of the ESA,” the letter opens.

Even though EPA found effects on endangered species in its analysis of the rule on existing power plants, EPA determined that section 7 consultation was unnecessary, although this is required by the law.

Concerning the same rule, the letter states, “The most recent government analysis projects that retirements of coal-fired power plants will double by 2020 as a result of the rule. EPA itself has conducted analysis that also anticipates the early retirement of coal-fired generating units.

The letter explains that the two power plants that are likely to retire at least some of their coal powered generating units due to EPA’s rule are Big Bend Power Plant and Crystal River Power Station in Florida and states, “Big Bend has been designated as a primary warm-water manatee refuge, is surrounded by a manatee sanctuary, and has a manatee protection plan appended to its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit.” Crystal River is also a warm-water manatee refuge, and has a manatee protection plan appended to its NPDES permit.

“A regulation that causes designated manatee refuges like Big Bend or Crystal River to shut down or alter their operations would significantly and adversely affect the endangered manatee,” the letter states. As regards to the rule for new power plants, the letter states, “We are astounded that EPA omitted any reference to the ESA or the section 7 consultation requirement in the proposed rule for new power plants.”

The letter requested all records, documents, and correspondence between the Department of the Interior, including FWS, and EPA on the decision not to consult or include ESA analysis in promulgating the rules by Monday, June 22, 2015.

Read the full letter here.