EPA’s McCarthy Defends New Restrictions on Emissions

Published February 3, 2012

New and proposed restrictions on U.S. power plant emissions will save lives and benefit the economy, said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy at the Energy, Utility & Environment Conference Jan. 30 in Phoenix. McCarthy said she expects the new and proposed restrictions to survive ongoing legal challenges.

EPA Responding to Obama

McCarthy said President Obama is very concerned about mercury emissions and wants to cut the nation’s use of fossil fuels. 

“He had a clear statement on this country’s commitment to reducing fossil fuel use. He had a great statement on having an all-of-the-above strategy,” said McCarthy.

EPA is addressing mercury emissions through the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were finalized Dec. 16.

“The rule is important because it is the first time we have established national standards for toxic emissions,” McCarthy explained. 

“We are not picking on power plants,” McCarthy asserted. “The simple fact is these rules are about 20 years overdue.”

Defending Cross States RuleEPA’s Cross States Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) was finalized July 11. A federal appellate court has blocked EPA from implementing the rule while it considers legal challenges.
“CSAPR is legally sound, and EPA will continue defending it vigorously.… We fully expect to get an answer on the merits very soon,” said McCarthy.

Power Plants First Target

McCarthy emphasized EPA will continue to impose restrictions on power plants before placing new restrictions on other sectors of the economy. 

“The power plants far exceed any other stationary source category as far as their emissions.… We are intending to move forward with power plants and refineries this year. We will not move forward on other sectors of the economy this year. We will attack these first,” said McCarthy. 

Despite protests from consumer and energy providers about added costs imposed by EPA’s new and proposed restrictions, McCarthy said energy providers want the restrictions and will benefit economically from them.

“As industry is making investments, they want to know what the full sweep of regulation will be,” McCarthy asserted.

“I think we did a wonderful job looking at the standards that industry thought were too tight to achieve, regarding what coal could meet and what technology could achieve,” said McCarthy. “If we are right, there will be a significant introduction of new technologies into the energy marketplace.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.