Friday, October 16, 2015

George Bush’s EPA Chief:  Clean Power Plan Is ‘Most Flexible Thing’ the Agency Has Done

Former EPA chief Christine Whitman at 2008 Republican National Convention. (Credit: Susan Walsh, AP) Click to Enlarge.
In an exclusive interview, former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman said the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) is “the most flexible thing,” the agency has ever done.

Whitman is the former Republican governor of New Jersey who ran the Environmental Protection Agency at the start of the George W. Bush administration.  She spoke with Climate Progress on a range of issues, including the CPP, nuclear power, the urgent need for climate action, and why she “certainly” doesn’t “talk about climate change … to the Republicans” on Capitol Hill.

The CPP is a set of carbon pollution standards for existing power plants issued by the EPA in consultation with the public, industry, and states.  The Supreme Court said back in 2007 that the EPA was legally required to put in place such standards once CO2 was scientifically determined to endanger public health and well-being, which it obviously does.

“EPA does have the authority,” explained Whitman last year in Senate testimony.  “The law says so and the Supreme Court has said so, twice.  The matter, I believe, should be put to rest.”

While many of her fellow Republicans have attacked the CPP as harmful to U.S. jobs and the competitiveness of American business, Whitman explained to Climate Progress why that wasn’t true.  First, she points out that from 1985 to 2008, we had a “booming economy” that nearly doubled GDP — with energy use rising 30 percent at the same time emissions from six major regulated pollutants dropped 60 percent.  So, “the idea the EPA is a job killer is false.”

Second, in terms of the CPP, “What EPA did was to allow as much flexibility as frankly I’ve ever seen them be able to create in a regulation.”  That is, the CPP in particular gives more options to states and industry to meet the new standards than it had in any previous regulation, enabling them to use a wide variety of strategies to advance a wide variety of clean energy technologies, including energy efficiency.

“I believe they have gone as far as they can possibly go,” noted Whitman.  She has unique experience on this subject, “having tried at various times when I was at EPA to provide some flexibility in getting clean-air standards — and getting beaten back every single time and losing in court.”

Studies have repeatedly shown that the CPP will have at most a minimal impact on jobs and the economy.  Indeed, a July study from researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that if states and utilities take advantage of the remarkable flexibility EPA has given them, they can achieve the CO2 targets while actually lowering the electricity bills of their customers.

Read more at George Bush’s EPA Chief:  Clean Power Plan Is ‘Most Flexible Thing’ the Agency Has Done

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