EPA Administrator Says Coal Rules Necessary Because of 'Devastating Impacts on the Planet'

The Obama administration has spent billions of dollars in clean coal technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration systems (CCS) that are purported to clean up coal-fired power.

Republicans argued that the technology is not commercially ready and that a technology cannot be deemed ready if it receives federal funding to be operational.

Barrasso cited recent media reports that quoted a White House official saying that CCS technology has not been “adequately demonstrated” because the EPA’s assertion of technical feasibility of carbon capture relies heavily on pilot projects and literature reviews.

McCarthy said that CCS has been proven to be “technically feasible” in the data provided by the agency. The EPA said new plants could meet stricter emissions limits because CCS has been demonstrated to work and is the best technology available to plants.

EPA published the first set rules on new performance standards for power plants this month. The rules only apply to future plants and could go into force in 2015.

“For existing plants, we are engaged in outreach to a broad group of stakeholders who can inform the development of proposed guidelines, which we expect to issue in June of this year,” McCarthy said.

The existing plant carbon rule would give states the primary role in developing and implementing plans to address carbon pollution, she added.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked McCarthy whether she could confirm global temperatures were increasing faster in the last five or ten years than climate scientists had predicted, a claim made by Obama on several occasions.

McCarthy replied she could not answer the question because she only relays the information that scientists provide to her. 

“I just look at what the climate scientists tell me,” she said. “I don’t dissect that information in ways that would impress you, but certainly I’m not qualified.”

Sessions, however, was not persuaded by her answer.

“You are asking us to impose billions of dollars of cost on this economy and you won’t answer the simple question of whether [temperature around the globe is increasing faster than predicted] is an accurate statement or not?” Sessions retorted.

Barrasso grilled McCarthy about internal emails that appear to show top EPA officials using agency events to help environmental groups gather signatures for petitions on agency rulemaking.

One of the emails showed that an EPA top official held a meeting with these groups with the sole purpose to recruit additional comment signers.

McCarthy denied knowledge of the events and said she had not seen the email in question.

“It is very common practice for EPA to meet with a variety of stakeholders,” she said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Thursday that he, along with 40 other Republicans, will file an obscure measure, known as a "resolution of disapproval,” to block the forthcoming EPA regulations.