Out of that eagerness, Manchin and Whitfield drafted (H.R. 3826/S. 1905, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act). It would repeal the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, authority the agency was accorded under the Clean Air Act, authority affirmed by two decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The legislation was sparked by the announcement last September of the EPA's long-awaited final rule to curb emissions of carbon dioxide from coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.
Natural gas-fired turbines would be limited to 1,000-1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity generated under the rule. New coal-fired units would be limited to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. Natural gas plants would have no trouble meeting the limit. But the most modern coal plants emit 1,800-2,100 pounds per megawatt-hour. The means to reduce that to the allowable level, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy noted at the time, is already available with carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology.
But the elected deniers and delayers were in full dither Wednesday when the House of Representatives debated the Manchin-Whitfield legislation, allowing anybody in the gallery or watching CSpan to see for themselves how myopic these politicians are. Coal was touted by speaker after speaker as the life-blood of the nation. The "over-reaching" EPA emissions rule controlling allowable emissions is all part of President Obama's "radical" environmental agenda, they said. Too expensive for businesses and consumers, they said. Job killer, they said. The poor will be hurt, they said.
That last claim, said Democratic Rep. Lois Capps of California, was particularly galling because it is the poor who will suffer most from inaction on climate change. Moving to control emissions and boosting clean energy will provide millions of jobs, Capps said, and every day we don't act will make future action more expensive. But another Democrat, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, said he was "sick and tired" of EPA regulations that "destroy jobs" and amount to a "war on coal." Environmental advocate Henry Waxman, the veteran California Democrat, said coal should not be subsidized by allowing the industry to keep adding carbon to the atmosphere so it can compete unfairly against clean-energy technologies.
Please read below the fold for more analysis.
Republican after Republican said CCS tech isn't available and hasn't been proved viable. But Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said that is categorically untrue. In fact, he said seven large commercial CCS operations are in operation already, just not at power plants.
To maintain the fossil fuel industry's freedom to keep emitting as much carbon pollution as they want, Manchin and Whitfield, who chairs the House Energy and Power subcommittee, are determined to stop the EPA before the final rule becomes operative, which is now slated for June. Their legislation would roll back the pending rule on new plants and block the issuing of a draft rule on existing plants, which the EPA's McCarthy says will be issued in June to begin the lengthy public comment and review process required before a final rule can be implemented.
The legislation is quite tricky. It forbids the EPA from issuing any rule that limits carbon emissions to a level lower than what existing coal-fired plants are emitting. The only way an emissions rule as strong as the one announced in September would be permitted under the legislation is if the technology to capture carbon and store it is proved viable at six separate plants every month for a year. Those plants could not receive any federal assistance.
But if there is no requirement to reduce carbon emissions, what company would try out emissions technology that it doesn't get government help for the experiment? About as many as are doing it now. None. Very clever, Joe and Ed.
In addition, a vote of Congress is mandated by the legislation before before any rule controlling emissions at existing power plants can be imposed.
If the bill were to become law, there simply wouldn't be an emissions rule that does anything. Except, that is, to let the industry continue doing what it already does. The good news is that the bill won't become law because the Senate will never pass it and, even if it did, President Obama would veto it.
It is, nevertheless, always good to see what these deniers and delayers really believe. Or at least what they pretend to believe to keep their campaign contributors happy.