Attorney General Becerra Calls on EPA to Withdraw Its Proposal to Weaken Emissions Standards From Coal Power Plants

Monday, March 18, 2019
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Twenty Attorneys General, Seven Local Governments Warn of Harm to Communities Should Emissions Increase

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading 20 attorneys general and seven local government entities, filed comments demanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdraw its proposal to weaken federal standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed coal-fired power plants. The coalition asserts in its comments that these standards protect against increased emissions and further acceleration of climate change. The proposal, if finalized, could increase carbon dioxide pollution contributing to climate change by weakening current requirements that new power plants minimize their emissions to the extent feasible. Under EPA’s proposal, a new coal-fired plant would be able to emit 35 percent more carbon dioxide than it could under current law. In 2015, after exhaustive technical analysis, EPA determined that new plants can meet the current standard by using carbon capture and storage. The coalition asserts that the EPA’s reversal of that finding and its new proposal are arbitrary and capricious, and in violation of its statutory obligation to control emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“The scientific community has given us a clear message to reduce emissions or face dire consequences. Yet, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler buries his head in the sand when confronted with this irrefutable scientific evidence,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Backsliding on emission standards for dirty power plants threatens progress when it is most vital in our fight to curb global warming. California can’t afford to go backward. We can’t afford to ignore the wildfires, storms, floods, droughts, and suffocating air pollution. EPA must stop ignoring the facts and science and withdraw this reckless proposal.”

In danger are the New Source Performance Standards adopted by the EPA in 2015 after a comprehensive examination in which the EPA determined that partial carbon capture and storage was the best system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired plants. The coalition submitting the comments represent approximately 158 million people and 45 percent of the U.S. population.

Failing to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions creates significant threats and harms to these states and their populations by intensifying the harms of climate change including increased heat waves, severe storms, flooding, disease, pests, and threats to air quality, utilities, infrastructure, agriculture, timber, marine industries, and regional ecosystems. Since the EPA’s publication of the rule it now proposes to eliminate, the earth has experienced the warmest year on record. A vast majority of scientists, including those from the federal government, warn of dire circumstances should the U.S. fail to reduce emissions, risking thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, more than the current gross domestic product of many U.S. states. Cited in the filed comment are statistics supporting these projections from government agencies including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; the American Meteorological Society; Department of Energy; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment representing the work of over 300 governmental and nongovernmental experts.

The coalition points out a number of alarming issues with the EPA’s proposal:

  • The proposal is arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Clean Air Act, as it runs counter to the agency’s evidence of the best and achievable system of emission reduction;
  • A new coal-fired plant would be expected to be able to meet the proposed weakened standard even if it did not use any carbon dioxide controls at all;
  • EPA provides inaccurate costs of meeting the 2015 emission standards;
  • EPA ignores the increased environmental harms that could result from changing the emission standard;
  • EPA fails to justify reversing its finding that carbon storage capacity is sufficiently available and accessible throughout the country; and
  • The agency has not provided enough information to permit the public to comment meaningfully.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in demanding the proposed rule be withdrawn are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (by and through its Minnesota Pollution Control Agency), New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia; as well as the Maryland Department of the Environment; the cities of Boulder, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and South Miami; and the county of Broward.

The filed comments and appendices are attached to the electonic version of this press release here.

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