New EPA Rules Are Legal, Obama Official Says

McCarthy says Obama administration moves actually help coal industry.

According to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration’s new regulations on carbon emissions simply follow the agency’s obligations under the Clean Air Act to regulate toxins and should withstand any potential legal challenges.

According to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration’s new regulations on carbon emissions simply follow the agency’s obligations under the Clean Air Act to regulate toxins and should withstand any potential legal challenges.

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Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy doubled-down on the Obama administration's plans to curb carbon emissions from power plants announced Friday, claiming the new policies would withstand any potential legal challenges.

"Our best defense is to do it right, to do it correctly under the law, to explain why we did it – as carefully as we can – to make sure it's legally defensible, it's technically accurate," McCarthy said during an event with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

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"I think what you will find is that we spent an exorbitant amount of time – as we should – looking at the data, looking at the science, looking at technology choices and doing this right," she said. "We think that it will stand the test of time."

McCarthy said while some conservatives and coal industry officials oppose the carbon limits put forth by the EPA on new power plants, she's simply following the legal obligations of the agency under the Clean Air Act to regulate toxins.

"I don't care whether I'm working for a Republican or a Democrat, the science is the science, the law is the law," McCarthy said. "I want it applied and we will make progress moving forward."

She also asserted the administration's moves are actually helping the struggling coal industry, which is suffering from competition with natural gas.

"I believe the EPA sees this rule as creating a path forward for coal and for continued investment in coal," McCarthy said. "I'm hoping that people will see this is a part of the Clean Air Act that really tells the EPA to look forward to these technologies; [they are] feasible and available and it doesn't add cost to coal compared to conventional coal but if you're looking at coal being a viable fuel for the future … it does create a path forward."

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The Obama administration will also continue to invest in carbon capture technology and "other clean coal technologies" in hopes that it will become a cost-effective way for coal plants to remain viable in the future, she said.

So far coal industry leaders are dubious of McCarthy's claims.

The American Public Power Association called the new EPA carbon limits unrealistic.

"In our view [the new rules don't] comport with the requirements of [New Source Performance Standards] under the Clean Air Act," the group said in a release. "It also runs counter to President Obama's pledge to pursue an 'all of the above' energy strategy."

McCarthy pledged to continue pitching her message for as long as it takes to win over skeptics.

"My whole goal will be to try to explain the science and do what we're supposed to do under the law," she said. "I do not intend to be the energy policy person. I intend to work collaboratively within the administration and the states to really try to get the politics aside and do what I've always done at the state level."

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