Commented to EPA on Clean Power Plan

SECURE AMERICA’S FUTURE ECONOMY

November 26, 2014

Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Re: Clean Power Plan (“CPP)

Secure America’s Future Economy is an all-volunteer, nonpartisan organization, formed in 1996, which advocates smaller, more focused, less costly government.

This letter will comment on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule published in the Federal Register on June 18, 2014. For the reasons stated, we would urge that the CPP be withdrawn.

1. The manmade global warming theory (MMGWT) has not been proven – and with no overall global warming since 1998 it is looking increasingly dubious.

Although the CPP refers to “climate change” rather than “global warming,” the two terms appear to be essentially synonymous. See, e.g., “Causes of Climate Change” on the EPA website, which asserts that “recent climate changes . . . cannot be explained by natural causes alone” and attributes “most of” the observed global warming “since the mid-20th century” to human activity, e.g., the burning of fossil fuels.

The COCA post neglects to mention that global warming stopped around 1998. This development contradicts predictions based on the MMGWT, as CO2 levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise, and one might infer that there is something wrong with the theory. Instead of acknowledging the problem, however, the principal response of MMGWT proponents has been to step up their attacks on critics (aka “deniers”). Stop denying climate science and ACT! (before people realize it’s a scam), Paul Driessen, Townhall.com, 8/31/13.

Contrary to the hype and hysteria, our planet stopped warming 16 years ago, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continued to climb. That prompted climate catastrophists to start talking about “climate change” and blame every “extreme weather” event on CO2 emissions.

By the way, SAFE noted that global warming had stopped in its 6/4/09 comments on the EPA’s endangerment finding re carbon emissions.

[The EPA’s] description of the alleged global warming threat includes many questionable or exaggerated claims. Given that global warming stopped about ten years ago, for example, it is hard to credit the statement on page 18896 that “eight of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.”

EPA Administrator Regina McCarthy acknowledged a global warming “pause” during a recent public interview, but called it “a short-lived issue.” EPA chief: Pause in global warming “doesn’t represent climate,” Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, 11/17/14.

Despite the lack of warming, the Obama administration has been pressing forward with climate rules to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuels industry. The most contentious regulation so far has been the EPA’s rule to limit emissions from power plants, which will likely cause coal plants to shut down. “If you look at the science… nothing tells us we are being overly aggressive” in what the agency is doing, McCarthy told reporters Monday morning.

No doubt global temperatures will fluctuate in the future, as they have in the past, but some scientists are predicting global cooling – not global warming – based on observed changes in solar activity that resemble the pattern during the Maunder Minimum that preceded the onset of the last “little ice age.” Is a mini ice age on the way? Mark Prigg, UK Daily Mail, 1/18/14.

All things considered, the EPA might do well to reconsider its endangerment finding instead of proposing regulations to force a reduction in carbon emissions.

2. The claim that there would be a net economic benefit from implementing the CPP is misleading. In reality, this plan would represent a huge tax on Americans, with only modest resultant benefits.

According to the CPP, “climate benefits” plus “air pollution health co-benefits” would exceed “compliance costs,” generally by a factor of 5 or more. Page 34840.

If there were no downside risk, it might seem justifiable to proceed with the CPP despite questions about the MMGWT. What has this country got to lose? But we believe there are serious questions about the estimated benefits and costs.

• Climate benefits are based on avoiding the assumed detriment of carbon emissions, so if the MMGWT is wrong or seriously exaggerated they could prove illusory. Moreover, we are not clear that the loss of CO2 benefits the agricultural sector have been factored into the calculation. It would seem more realistic to assume net climate benefits of zero.

• Air pollution health co-benefits – There isn’t much doubt that shuttering coal-fired power plants reduces the emission of true pollutants, such as SO2 or fine air-borne particles, with resultant health benefits. Many of these plants will probably be closed over time anyway, however, because fracking has increased the supply and lowered the price of natural gas.

As for the magnitude of health benefits, we would assume the law of diminishing returns is applicable, i.e., each successive cut in emissions produces less benefit at a higher cost then the previous cut.

Also, some of the EPA’s health benefit estimates (re fine air-borne particles) are apparently based on decades old studies that are not available for independent evaluation and verification. The question Obama’s EPA pick Gina McCarthy can’t answer, Mark Drajem, Business Week, 5/23/13.

Ergo, critics are being asked to accept on faith that fine airborne particles are “killing thousands of Americans every year,” even though more recent studies have concluded otherwise. EPA concedes: We can’t produce all the data justifying clean air rules, Barbara Hollingsworth, cnsnews.com, 4/11/14.

• Compliance costs – These estimates include monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting costs. Page 34840. Only modest energy cost increases are projected, and it’s assumed that they would be largely offset by reductions in energy consumption. Page 34934.

Under Option 1, average nationwide retail electricity prices are projected to increase by roughly 6 to 7 percent in 2020 relative to the base case, and by roughly 3 percent in 2030 (contiguous U.S.). Average monthly electricity bills are anticipated to increase by roughly 3 percent in 2020, but decline by approximately 9 percent by 2030. This is a result of the increasing penetration of demand-side programs that more than offset increased prices to end users by their expected savings from reduced electricity use.*** The EPA also projects that electric power sector-delivered natural gas prices will increase by 9 to 12 percent in 2020, with negligible changes in 2030.

Other analysts have reached less optimistic conclusions. See, e.g., “Energy market impacts of recent federal regulations [the CPP plus several others] on the electric power sector,” Energy Venture Analysts, November 2014.

Per the EVA study, average household electric & gas bills would increase by 15% in 2012 dollars between 2012 and 2020, double the EPA’s figure. Moreover, total US costs for electric power and natural gas would increase by 37% during the same period, presumably reflecting higher costs for industry that would be passed on to consumers via higher prices.

In addition to differences in methodology, the EVA study takes issue with several of the EPA’s assumptions:

• Considers the EPA assumption that existing coal-fueled generating facilities could achieve a 6% heat rate improvement by 2020 to be unrealistic; assumes no efficiency gain on average for these facilities.

• Believes the EPA assumption that existing combined cycle gas turbines would average a 70% utilization rate per year by 2020 does not reflect real-world experience or reasonable modeling of the US power markets.

• Projects that wind and solar (currently about 5% of the US generation supply) would grow about 70% by 2030 compared to the EPA estimate that state renewable energy policies would result in 209% more renewable power generation overall.

• Estimates that demand-side energy efficiency savings would increase 120% from 2020 to 2030 versus the EPA’s estimate of 250%.


Although we cannot express an informed opinion on all of these points, we believe the CPP would drive up energy costs by (a) forcing the closure of many coal-fired power plants before the end of their useful economic lives, and (b) increasing the demand (and therefore price) for natural gas. There may also be economic penalties associated with the reduction of energy consumption – including higher per unit transmission costs – which the EPA has not taken into account. Accordingly, the EVA estimates of what the CPP would cost seem much closer to the mark than the EPA projections.

Given that the CPP would impose a serious burden on the US economy, it should not proceed without convincing proof that manmade global warming poses a threat that must be addressed on a high priority basis. Such proof does not exist, in our opinion, and many informed observers agree. See, e.g., “‘Climate consensus’ data need a more careful look,” Roger Cohen (American Physical Society), William Happer (Princeton), & Richard Lindzen (MIT), Wall Street Journal, 8/13/12.

It is increasingly clear that doubling CO2 is unlikely to increase global temperature more than about one degree Celsius, not the much larger values touted by the global warming establishment. In fact, CO2 levels are below the optimum levels for most plants, and there are persuasive arguments that the mild warming and increased agricultural yields from doubling CO2 will be an overall benefit for humanity. Let us debate and deal with serious, real problems facing our society, not elaborately orchestrated, phony ones, like the trumped-up need to drastically curtail CO2 emissions.

3. The CPP is not simply an environmental regulation, it represents an attempt to bypass Congress and make law by executive fiat.

Here is the issue in a nutshell: Can an administrative agency (following the president’s instructions) properly promulgate a plan that would surely be rejected if it were presented to Congress for approval? (A national cap and trade proposal failed to pass in 2009, and the composition of Congress is more “conservative” now than it was then.)

Overall, the EPA is proposing a national carbon emissions reduction from power plants of about 30% between 2005 and 2030. That certainly sounds like policy making, e.g., why 30% vs. 25% or 35%?

The national goal would then be apportioned to the several states based on the EPA’s ideas as to feasibility, with permissible emission levels in 2030 (“final goals”) ranging from 215 lbs. of CO2 per net megawatt hour in Washington to 1,783 lbs. of CO2 per net megawatt hour in North Dakota. Page 34895.

Some states would have a tough time meeting the assigned goals, and their purported flexibility to decide how to comply – by choosing between four prescribed strategies (“building blocks”), i.e., (1) improve thermal efficiency, (2) substitute natural gas plants for coal plants, (3) add wind, solar and nuclear power to the mix, and (4) promote energy efficiency - would not help a great deal. Natural gas, not location, key to state emission cuts under EPA proposal, Zak [Colman], Washington Examiner, 6/3/14.

The EPA would reserve the right to approve or reject plans submitted by the states, to develop plans for any state that declines to propose one, and to monitor progress towards goals and presumably sanction states for noncompliance.

The foregoing would represent an exercise in making policy, not executing policies established by Congress, which would contravene Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

Also notable is the 10th Amendment, which provides “that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Reliance on policy pronouncements of the president cannot save the CPP, as the president’s role under the Constitution is not to make the laws but rather (Article II, Section 3) to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Sincerely,

SAFE


PS. If the links in this e-mailed letter don’t work, please check the online version that will be included in the 12/1/14 blog entry on our website.

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