The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and Business Forward, a D.C. business trade group, hosted a White House Business Council business leader roundtable with Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),to discuss sustainability and the President's Climate Action Plan on June 4.
Chamber President & CEO Bryan K. Stephens welcomed attendees saying, “On Monday, the EPA announced new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.” He added, “This is the first time pollution from existing power plants will be regulated. The new standards are a key part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and there are supporters of it that believe this will create jobs and there are critics who say the standards will hurt the economy.”
The EPA’s announcement of the proposed regulation is intended to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Though the topic is considered controversial, Stephens reminded the group that the organization will adopt a position for the good of the business community on many issues impacting the region. “Your Chamber does not shy away from contentious issues,” said Stephens. “We took a stand on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion, uranium mining and other issues of great importance to the businesses of Hampton Roads.” He expressed that the Hampton Roads Chamber has not taken a position on this issue, saying that the Chamber will continue the dialogue with its members and take a position at a later date.
McCarthy reiterated the rule is a proposal, not a final rule. She said, “The Climate Action Plan acknowledges both the environmental and economic challenges and impacts that we are already seeing from climate change. And it proposes a number of steps the U.S. can take and the administration is going to move forward on to both mitigate the challenge of climate, in other words to try and take actions to lower carbon pollution that’s fueling the climate and also to work with communities with the changing climate that we see. The already impacts we are feeling. And third, to let the U.S. be a leverage voice and a louder voice in the global challenge associated with finding an ultimate solution to the climate change that we’re experiencing.”
The EPA put out a rule to regulate carbon pollution from power plants because these plants represent the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S. McCarthy said, “We were asked to reduce the harmful carbon pollutants that fuel climate change and to do it in a way that would maintain the reliability and affordability of our electricity system and do it in a way that was practical and affordable.”
McCarthy believes the rule meets the criteria the EPA received, saying they did not do a one-size-fits-all approach. “We set a goal for every state and we said ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and over the next 120 days let’s see what you think of your goal and whether or not you can get there as we think you can,’” said McCarthy.
The Chamber’s Virginia Beach Division Chair Cathie France, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Port of Virginia, was in attendance and said, "I really appreciated the unique experience provided by the Chamber to hear from Gina McCarthy about the recent draft regulations proposed to regulate power plants. It was refreshing to hear that the EPA did not take a cookie cutter approach and plans to work with states to develop their plans. I am hopeful that as Virginia develops its plan we will continue to strike a balance that allows us to operate efficiently while keeping our energy costs low."
McCarthy explained that the EPA has been regulating carbon emissions from automobiles to make them more fuel efficient. “A few years ago, we worked with the industry and our labor community and environmental advocates,” said McCarthy. She added, “We work with consumer groups. And we came out with a proposal on how to double fuel efficiency so that consumers could get twice as far on a gallon of gas and do it in a reasonable way so the costs associated with that would be minimal so the auto industry could continue to sell cars that people would want to buy.”
She said, “The auto industry continues to add thousands of employees. We are getting cars that are more fuel efficient than we ever required. It’s driving new technology.” McCarthy used this is an example of what can happen if you work in partnership with those you regulate and the communities that you are trying to serve.
More about the carbon emissions rule:
• The EPA expects that under the regulation, 30 percent of electricity in the United States will still come from coal by 2030, down from about 40 percent today.
• The agency estimates that the rule will have an impact of $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion annually, but will lead to benefits of $55 billion to $93 billion, primarily by preventing premature deaths and mitigating respiratory diseases.
• Critics complain the rule will drive up electricity costs, but the EPA forecasts that the rule will increase energy efficiency across the power sector, leading to lower electricity bills when the program is fully implemented in 2030.
• The rule will not, on its own, lower greenhouse gas pollution enough to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change. But, in combination with other regulations, it would allow the United States to meet its commitment to the United Nations to cut carbon pollution 17 percent by 2020 and press other major polluting countries, particularly China and India, to follow suit.
• The draft proposal is just the beginning of the process to cut emissions. The agency will now take public comment and spend the next year completing the proposal before releasing the final rule in June 2015. States will then be given another year to submit compliance plans, or apply for an extension.
• The rule is not an executive order. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to regulate any substance defined as a pollutant, which the law defined as substances that endanger human life and health. A 2007 Supreme Court decision led to an EPA determination naming carbon dioxide is a pollutant, thus requiring that the agency regulate it or be in violation of the law.
Read more about the EPA’s carbon pollution standards.
Gina McCarthy was confirmed as EPA Administrator on July 13, 2013. Appointed by President Obama in 2009 as Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Gina McCarthy has been a leading advocate for common-sense strategies to protect public health and the environment.
With the help of more than 50 of the world’s largest and most respected companies, Business Forward is making it easier for tens of thousands of business leaders from across America to advise Washington on how to create jobs and accelerate our economic recovery. Business Forward has organized hundreds of local briefings with more than 450 senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, mayors and governors.
The EPA Administrator’s meeting with the Chamber allowed participants to ask questions and speak candidly. In addition to this briefing, the Chamber recently hosted dialogues with Governor Terry McAuliffe and Commonwealth Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne. These elected officials understand that the Chamber is the voice of the business community and members offer ideas and suggestions.
The Hampton Roads Chamber is a vigorous advocate for the economic success of its nearly 1,600 member businesses, which employ nearly 250,000 men and women in southeastern Virginia. The Chamber provides access to decision makers and elected officials and opportunities to get involved in issues that impact businesses and the community.