US chemical sector says EPA emissions plan unacceptable

23 February 2010 21:49  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Plans by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are unacceptable and Congress should immediately block such action, a leading US chemical industry group said on Tuesday.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said that the agency’s plans to begin regulating and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities next year are “incomplete and unacceptable” and would put US economic recovery in jeopardy.

The council was responding to a letter sent on Monday by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to eight Democrat senators who had asked for detailed explanations from the agency on how it plans to implement its controversial “endangerment finding”.

That finding, issued in December last year, set forth the agency’s legal authority and general plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. 

Although EPA’s regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions first will be applied to vehicles, the agency said it also will proceed with plans to enforce emissions limits for electric utilities, manufacturing plants and other production facilities, known as “stationary sources” in EPA parlance.

The eight Senate Democrats, led by West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, had written to Jackson last week, expressing concerns that the agency’s plans to regulate industrial emissions would cause widespread economic harm to the nation’s manufacturers and jobs.

The eight Senate Democrats represent states with high coal production or manufacturing that is dependent on low-cost coal-fired electric power.

In her response to the eight Democrats, Jackson said on Monday that EPA would gradually phase-in emissions reductions for stationary sources over a five-year period beginning next year and running through 2016.

However, the ACC said that Jackson’s response to the senators “does not address the significant concerns that have been raised by members of Congress and the business community about the impact of the regulations on investment in new facilities, business expansion and job creation”.

“It’s clear that Congress should step in immediately to postpone EPA’s proposed regulation of stationary sources,” said the council. The chemical trade group urged that Congress block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases in order to gain time for a comprehensive legislative approach.

A separate group of 41 Republican and Democrat members of the Senate has sponsored a joint Senate resolution (JSR-26) that would nullify the EPA’s endangerment finding and bar the agency from regulating greenhouse gases.

Some of the Democrat senators who wrote to Jackson last week indicated on Tuesday that they might support the resolution to bar EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

After seeing Jackson’s response, Rockefeller said on Tuesday that “I believe we need to set in stone through legislation enough time for Congress to consider a comprehensive energy bill” that also would deal with emissions reductions.

“As I evaluate the EPA’s letter,” Rockefeller said, “I remain committed to legislation that would provide Congress the space it needs to craft a workable policy that will protect jobs and stimulate the economy.”

The council said that if EPA proceeds with its plans, it will make comprehensive action by Congress all the more difficult.

The ACC also warned that EPA’s action would trigger widespread “fuel switching” among US electric utilities as they would abandon coal-fired generation and move to natural gas as a power fuel in order to meet the agency’s mandated emissions cuts.

That, said the council, “will raise domestic natural gas costs a time when our economic situation is imposing considerable challenges on US manufacturing and jobs”.

US petrochemical production and downstream chemical manufacturing are heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and energy fuel.

EPA's plans to regulate greenhouse gases has drawn wide opposition and lawsuits by manufacturers, agricultural interests and state governments.

A vote in Congress on whether to block the EPA from enforcing emissions reductions for greenhouse gases may come next month.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect
Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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