Power Plant Regs, While 'Flexible,' Will be 'Enforceable,' EPA Admin Says

Gina McCarthy has made 'flexibility' a catchphrase, but new rules will be more than mere guidelines.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at a keynote panel on reducing greenhouse gases April 7, 2014, in Washington, DC.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at a keynote panel on reducing greenhouse gases April 7, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

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New rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants may be “flexible,” but that doesn’t mean they won’t be “federally enforceable,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy Monday.

“We are going to make them cost effective, we are going to make them make sense,” McCarthy said, speaking at conference organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be so flexible that I’m not going to be able to rely on this as a federally-enforceable rule.”

The new rules are a key part of the Climate Action Plan that President Barack Obama unveiled in a speech last summer. Earlier this year, the EPA released tighter emissions limits for new coal-fired power plants, and last week, the agency submitted a draft of proposed regulations for existing power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

[READ: Poll: Americans Still Unconcerned About Global Warming]


Those rules, which may ultimately differ greatly from the draft sent to the White House, McCarthy said, are expected to be published for public comment later this year.

In numerous meetings with industry groups, lawmakers and reporters, McCarthy has stressed that the new regulations for existing power plants will not be one-size-fits-all. Instead, she’s said, they’ll take into account how different states get their power from different energy sources.

“The EPA is not using its own version of what the energy world looks like. We’re looking at what the energy world is,” she said. “Not all the states have the same opportunities for [carbon] reductions.”

Nevertheless, she added, “it’s not unlimited or unbridled flexibility.”

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McCarthy was joined on stage by Colette Honorable, chairwoman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which represents state utility regulators.

Honorable, who serves as chairwoman of both the Arkansas Public Service Commission and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which represents state utility regulators, avoided staking a position on the proposed regulations.

"We have to see what the rules say first,” she said.

Nevertheless, while NARUC is made up of “a very diverse group of states,” she emphasized that “the states are open” to considering new emissions rules.