Posted May 16, 2023
GOP leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee are renewing concerns other congressional critics of EPA's latest suite of power plant regulations have raised how they could impact grid reliability, including both climate policies and the cumulative effect of proposed wastewater discharge standards for the sector.
Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO), chair of the full T&I committee, and David Rouzer (R-NC), chair of the water resources and environment subcommittee, made their comments in a May 12 letter to EPA water chief Radhika Fox asking the agency to extend its May 30 comment deadline on the proposed Clean Water Act effluent limitation guidelines (ELG) for coal-fired power plants by another 60 days, to a total of 120 days.
"We are concerned this is an insufficient timeline and that a longer comment period is necessary to adequately address the complexity and technicality of the rule, its broader implications, and the multitude of questions EPA posed in it," the lawmakers say.
In part, they point to specific provisions in the rule that they say require more in-depth consideration than the current deadline allows, including its designation of membrane filtration as best available technology for flue gas desulfurization and bottom ash waste streams -- which in effect creates zero-discharge standards for those streams.
But they also raise more overarching concerns over the economic impacts of multiple proposed power plant regulations, noting an interest "in how the proposed rule interacts with other significant ongoing EPA rulemakings."
A footnote references several recent power plant proposals, including new source performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions, emission guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units, and EPA's repeal of the Trump-era Affordable Clean Energy rule for the sector.
"The cumulative effect of EPA's proposed regulations threaten to strain the ability of producers to provide safe and reliable power and lead to a significant amount of generation retirements," Rouzer and Graves wrote.
These concerns largely echo those made by other congressional critics of the new rules. In the Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) warned he will oppose all EPA nominees until the administration ends its "overreach" targeting the power sector.
"The administration is determined to advance its radical climate agenda and has made it clear they are hellbent on doing everything in their power to regulate coal and gas-fueled power plants out of existence, no matter the cost to energy security and reliability," Manchin said in a May 10 statement.
House Republicans have also stepped up criticism of the agency's recent and imminent proposals, and promised continued scrutiny.
For instance, during a May 10 subcommittee hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the full panel, said the various power sector rules would undercut grid reliability and that the agency is overstepping its authority -- especially in light of its past efforts to address GHGs.
Power and other industry groups also weighed in on the issue in EPA's April 25 public listening session on the proposed ELG rule, warning that the suite of power sector regulations EPA is currently developing creates serious concerns for industry's ability to maintain grid reliability amid growing power needs to meet the nation's electrification goals.