The Tennessean:

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn slams EPA over new emissions limits
She says new rules hamper businesses

Before a gathering of business leaders and energy company executives at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn slammed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over new emissions limits on coal-fired power plants.

Blackburn, R-Brentwood, called the EPA an “activist agency” that has taken enforcement of federal environmental laws too far. The new rules announced last week, she said, would hamper businesses and drive up the price of electricity.

“Since 2009, the EPA has taken on an activist role and has proposed new regulations that would impose tens of billions of dollars in new costs on American businesses and consumers,” said Blackburn, vice chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“These rules are creating regulatory uncertainty, they are preventing new projects from going forward, they are discouraging new investment and they are stifling job creation.”

The EPA announced new limits on the amount of carbon dioxide that new coal- and gas-fired power plants could emit and renewed an Obama administration promise eventually to impose those caps on older plants.

For new power plants, the EPA proposal caps emissions at 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. Without more advanced emission controls, a typical new power plant emits about 1,800 pounds.

Goal of 2015

The Obama administration wants tougher standards for existing plants finalized by 2015.

Environmental groups across the nation have praised the administration for the new rules, including groups in Tennessee that have long called on the Tennessee Valley Authority to retire its aging coal-fired power plants.

TVA is working on a $1.1 billion project to install massive equipment at its Gallatin power plant designed to cut mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions — pollutants that can cause respiratory and other health problems. The equipment is needed to meet a separate agreement between TVA and the EPA, four states and three environmental groups.

Scott Banbury, the conservation chairman for the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, said that up until now there have been no national standards for the amount of carbon pollution power plants emit into the air.

“Big polluters have been getting a free ride for decades, while Americans foot the bill in the form of asthma attacks, respiratory illness, floods, wildfires, and superstorms,” Banbury said in a prepared statement.

“We look forward to working with the administration to ensure strong final standards for both coal and gas plants, as well as a strong proposal for EPA’s upcoming carbon pollution protections for existing power plants.”

Blackburn spoke at the Southeast Powering Our Future Forum, hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance. The alliance is a nonprofit group focused on expanding dialogue between energy interests and consumers.

Its members include consumers, business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and energy companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell Oil.

“We are all for clean air and for clean water,” Blackburn said. “Every one of us.”

But Blackburn called for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

“Our country has been so blessed, so incredibly blessed, with abundant energy reserves,” she said. “Some are tapped. Some are untapped. Some are traditional. Some are alternative.”

Michael Whatley, the alliance’s executive vice president, said EPA rules already are resulting in a “rapid scale down” of coal-fired power plants.

“At the same time, we are seeing electricity demand and population continue to grow,” he said. “It begs the question: How are we going to fill the gap?”