EPA chief: Power plant rules won’t ‘put the brakes on business’

HOUSTON — Economic growth and reducing carbon pollution can go hand in hand, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insisted Thursday.

The United States can invest in clean technologies that “will allow fossil fuel to be part of the mix” for generations to come, McCarthy told oil, gas and utility executives at the IHS CERAWeek energy summit in Houston.

McCarthy’s assurances came as the Environmental Protection Agency drafts new rules for limiting power plants’ greenhouse gas pollution. The agency is on track to propose the regulation on June 1, with expectations of finalizing the mandates a year later.

Looming new power plants will not “put the brakes on business,” McCarthy told the crowd. But McCarthy said she still expected bad reviews — from both environmentalists and business.

“I am quite sure people will be disappointed in many ways,” she said. “We will have people saying ‘you didn’t go too far’ and others saying ‘you will shut down business in its tracks.'”

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McCarthy insisted she was striving to write a good rule that responds to stakeholders’ concerns, does not cause prices to skyrocket and does not jeopardize electric reliability.

McCarthy emphasized the EPA’s outreach to state regulators and other stakeholders since President Barack Obama last year directed the agency to draft the greenhouse gas rule. McCarthy quipped that she has spent more time with well-dressed energy executives — and not environmentalists — since taking over the top post at EPA last year.

Beyond the technical and legal challenges of writing the regulation within the scope of the Clean Air Act, McCarthy noted the difficulty acting on a major climate space amid huge economic concerns. But she stressed that climate action can yield economic dividends.

“Let’s refuse to allow complacency,” McCarthy said. “Let’s refuse to allow inaction or naysayers to take down our opportunity to work together. Let’s confront our energy — our climate — challenge, and seize it (to) drive a more sustainable and prosperous future for all of us.”