In crafting its upcoming rules for carbon emissions from existing power plants, the Environmental Protection Agency engaged in a consultation campaign that reached far beyond its official 11 listening sessions, according to records obtained by Bloomberg BNA.
The efforts included meetings with 210 separate groups in the Washington, D.C. area, covering a broad range of interests — as well as 115 other meetings and events held across EPA’s 10 regional offices. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe, or Senior Counsel Joe Goffman attended most of the meetings at EPA headquarters.
The data was provided to Bloomberg BNA upon request, and covers activity through March 12.
The meetings EPA staff held with the governors and state officials from both Kentucky and West Virginia are of particular political significance. When EPA launched its 11-city “listening tour” back in October of 2013, some critics jumped on the agency because none of the tour stops landed in either those two states. Kentucky and West Virginia are the two state economies that would probably be most affected by a regulatory crackdown on the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The agency’s officials also met with representatives from California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York and Ohio, among others.
Beyond state officials, Bloomberg BNA also reported that EPA met with:
- a host of publicly traded companies, including Xcel Energy Inc., Duke Energy, Dominion Resources, Alcoa Inc., and others
- other federal agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy
- a wealth of trade associations, among them the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Public Power Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the National League of Cities, the National Mining Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Finally, EPA also consulted with a number of environmental and progressive groups, including the Center for American Progress, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the World Resources Institute.
The rules to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants are the central component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan for his second term. They’ll come in two chunks: rules for new plants — which were released in September as drafts and will be finalized in the near future — and rules for already-existing power plants — which will be released in draft form this coming June.
The listening tour and the many meetings carried out by EPA were aimed at hashing out how the rules for already-existing plants should be designed. The language of the Clean Air Act, and what regulatory powers it grants to EPA, is different for new and existing plants. In the latter case, the agency must give individual states much more leeway — it sets the overall system and goals, but its up to the individual states to come up with a plan for meeting those goals. That means EPA has a serious interest in writing regulations the states feel they can work with, and will thus minimize (though probably not entirely avoid) any legal battles.
While the actual shape of EPA’s design remains unknown, the most prominent proposal for how the agency could approach the problem arguably came from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Their system would set a different rate limit for carbon emissions for each state — based on its needs and historical power mix — while giving each state flexibility and a number of options in how to hit that target.