Regulatory Pause Laser Talk

Question:  How and why does H.R.763 restrict EPA regulations?

Answer:  To maximize broad bipartisan support, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act limits the EPA’s ability to issue some regulations on greenhouse gases (GHGs). The changes under this provision mainly affects the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and related GHG limits for new and expanded power plants and factories. [1,2,3]

Vital aspects of the Clean Air Act remain intact, including the core EPA authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. [4] There is no change to EPA’s ability to regulate other forms of air pollution, [5] vehicle fuel economy (CAFE) standards [6] or renewable fuel content in gasoline. [7] Government can still enforce appliance efficiency standards [8] and regulate methane leakage from the natural gas system. [9]

With the aggressive carbon-cutting schedule under H.R.763, the limited GHG rules in question would be redundant. [10] They are not even currently active, [11] but would still pose a potential administrative and legal burden to businesses while not cutting a single additional ton of CO2.

The Clean Power Plan is not currently in effect, but even if it were, H.R.763 would cut emissions about 9 times more by 2030 and about 23 times more by 2050. [12]

Furthermore, this regulatory suspension would only be in place for 10 years, and then if the emissions targets mandated by H.R.763 are not being met, the restriction would not only be lifted, but the EPA would then be required to write regulations to meet those targets.

There is strong evidence from economic literature that a policy like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will reduce GHG emissions more efficiently than existing or proposed regulations, [13] so this regulatory pause will not in any way slow down our path to a livable climate.

  1. “FACT SHEET: Overview of the Clean Power Plan.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (snapshot) (19 Jan 2017).
  2. “Regulation Database – New Source Performance Standards for GHG Emissions from Electric Generating Units.” Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law (accessed 27 Mar 2019).
  3. “PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation (Mar 2011).
  4. “Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (11 Jul 2017).
  5. “Clean Air Act Issues in the 116th Congress: Air Quality Standards.” (18 Apr 2019).
  6. “Clean Air Act Issues in the 116th Congress: Standards for Motor Vehicles.” (18 Apr 2019).
  7. “Renewable Fuel Standard.” Alternative Fuels Data Center, U.S. Department of Energy (accessed 28 Mar 2019).
  8. “Appliance and Equipment Standards Program.” Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (accessed 28 Mar 2019).
  9. Tsang, L. “EPA’s Methane Regulations: Legal Overview.” Congressional Research Service (24 Jan 2018).
  10. Gundlach, J. “To Negotiate a Carbon Tax: A Rough Map of Interactions, Tradeoffs, and Risks.” Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. (2 Mar 2018).
  11. “Clean Air Act Issues in the 116th Congress.” Congressional Research Service (18 Apr 2019).
  12. The CPP target for 2030 is a 32 percent cut in power sector CO2 emissions compared to 2005, and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that by 2050 the CPP would cut 4 percent more of covered emissions than the reference case with no CPP. From EPA data, 2005 power sector CO2 emissions were 2,401 megatons (Mt), so 32 percent lower would be 1,633 Mt. But 2016 power sector CO2 emissions were only 1,809 Mt, so compared to that amount, the CPP target for 2030 would amount to a cut of 176 Mt. In comparison, H.R.763 requires 2030 emissions to be 1,551 Mt lower than 2016 emissions, which is 1551/176 = 8.8 times more. The 2050 goal for H.R.763 is 90 percent cut from covered emissions, which is 22.5 times more.
  13. Rosetti, P., D Bosch, and D. Goldbeck. “Comparing Effectiveness of Climate Regulations and a Carbon Tax.” American Action Forum (2 Jul 2018).

This page was last updated on 06/17/19 at 22:30 CDT.

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