EPA Chief: Costly 'Clean Power Plan' Gives Americans 'More Opportunities to Reduce Waste'

Susan Jones | June 26, 2014 | 8:23am EDT
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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Sure, the EPA's new pollution rules will raise the cost of electricity, forcing many Americans to use less of it. But don't think of it as a price hike.

"It's actually about providing (Americans) more opportunities to reduce waste," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Congress on Wednesday. Under the EPA's demand-reduction scenario, Americans can retrofit their homes and buy more energy-efficient appliances, she said.

This, in turn, will create jobs in government-approved industries.

The sweeping EPA plan announced earlier this month sets carbon-reduction targets for each state, then allows states to decide how to meet those targets, either on their own or in partnership with other states.

McCarthy said many states will choose the most "cost-effective strategy," which is to reduce consumer demand for electricity:

But that means raising the cost of electricity, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told McCarthy: "EPA has said the rule will not increase the cost of electricity, but under this proposed rule, the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour will actually increase. Isn't that correct?"

"Well, we have indicated that the monthly cost of electricity at its peak will be somewhere around a gallon-of-milk cost," McCarthy said. "But we also recognize that when demand-side reduction is used -- which is the easiest, quickest and usually the preferred approach of states -- that it actually reduces the bill itself."

"But it reduces it based upon Americans using less electricity, not the fact that the cost of electricity goes down, but making it impossible for Americans to use electricity as they ought to be allowed to use electricity," Walberg said.

"Actually, the amount of increase in the rates is well within the range of fluctuation that we have been seeing," McCarthy replied. "And so we are quite convinced that--"

"Through Scarcity! Through Scarcity!," Walberg interrupted. "That's happening in my district. That's through scarcity. The push is to reduce electricity by saying to the consumer, don't use electricity. It's not by reducing the cost of production of it."

"It's actually about providing them more opportunities to reduce waste," McCarthy said.

Walberg also pressed McCarthy on whether the Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to regulate American electricity consumption.

"We're not suggesting that we do regulate that. We are regulating pollution at the source," she said.

The Clean Air Plan requires states to meet certain pollution reduction goals by 2030. The EPA says that will result in 30 percent less pollution from the fossil fuel sector -- mainly coal -- across the U.S. when compared with 2005 levels.

EPA says the plan improves the health of the planet and the people who inhabit it.

"The first year that these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks -- and those numbers go up from there," McCarthy said in a speech on June 2. "That means lower medical bills and fewer trips to the emergency room, especially for those most vulnerable like our children, our elderly, and our infirm. This is about environmental justice, too, because lower income families, and communities of color are hardest hit."

But it's also about creating jobs in industries that liberals like:

"Well, we know that this will actually create thousand of jobs, and those jobs are going to be created in the clean energy economy," McCarthy said at Wednesday's hearing. "We are talking about jobs both related to renewable energy as well as the wealth of energy-efficiency programs. If you're heavily reliant on coal, it also can be expenditures that you make at those facilities to deliver that energy more efficiently. So there's a lot of choices that states can make here."

McCarthy said every state should be able to reach the goals the EPA has set for them. "This is not a stretch goal for any state -- it's an opportunity to turn climate risk into business opportunity, job growth and economic growth."

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) applauded the government's effort to remake the nation's energy landscape:

"It seems pretty clear that you're giving an incentive for states to put in more solar panels, erect more wind turbines, weatherize more homes, install more energy-efficient appliances and machinery. I mean, this is the direction we're heading -- these are jobs that pay well, they can't be exported, they're here to stay, is that right?" he asked.

"That's exactly right," McCarthy agreed.

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