Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt told House lawmakers on December 7 that the agency will introduce a rule to replace the Obama administration’s legacy Clean Power Plan.
Pruitt told Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) in a brief exchange, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment held on Thursday to examine the EPA’s mission, that the EPA will replace the rule to balance the agency’s position on other criteria pollutants.
POWER on December 8 asked the EPA about a timeline for the possible Clean Power Plan replacement rule; where the replacement rule was in the rulemaking process; and if the replacement rule would propose mandated carbon emission cuts from power plants. An EPA spokesperson responded by e-mail: “We have no further details at this time.”
However, Pruitt’s declaration is significant because until the hearing on Thursday, Pruitt had only indicated that the EPA would consider whether or not further regulatory action on the Clean Power Plan was warranted. The EPA on October 10 proposed a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, claiming that it exceeded the agency’s statutory authority.
Pruitt’s statement (video) on Thursday about a Clean Power Plan replacement came after Ruiz asked the administrator for his thoughts on EPA rules governing fine particulate matter. Pruitt said fine particles are a “very important criteria pollutant that we need to regulate under NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards] in a very important way.”
Video. Pruitt said the EPA will introduce a rule to replace the Clean Power Plan at 62:30. The exchange with Rep. Ruiz begins at 57:33.
Ruiz then asked Pruitt why the EPA, which recognizes the dangers of fine particulate pollution and whose mission is to protect the environment for health reasons, withdrew the Clean Power Plan, effectively reversing the EPA’s position on the “deadliness of fine particulate pollution.”
Pruitt responded: “We did not reverse it, Congressman, and moreover, we are going to be introducing a replacement rule, too, in place of the Clean Power Plan.”
Pruitt also confirmed that the agency had not used “new peer-reviewed scientific studies” to support reversing the Clean Power Plan. He said that withdrawing the Clean Power Plan is “largely based upon the jurisdictional issues of the Clean Air Act.”
At the hearing, Pruitt told lawmakers that the agency was pursuing a “back to basics” agenda that has three goals: to refocus the agency back to its core mission; to restore power to the states through cooperative federalism; and to lead the agency through improved processes and adhere to the rule of law.
In response to a question from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) about whether the EPA should have consulted with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to get a “balanced analysis” on the plan, Pruitt said the Obama administration’s promulgation of the Clean Power Plan was rooted in a “reimagining of the authority that took place under the Clean Air Act, which caused a lot of confusion on what was authorized and what wasn’t.”
The EPA is addressing that to adhere to the “rule of law and these processes to make sure that there’s confidence in the rules,” he added.
—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)