(CNSNews.com) - EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Congress on Wednesday that the EPA's sweeping carbon-regulation plan "really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control."
Spouting warnings about "climate change" ("The science is clear. The risks are clear...We must act."), McCarthy described and defended the EPA's plan to reduce pollution from existing power plants by setting various carbon-reduction goals for each state to meet by the year 2030.
"And the great thing about this proposal is it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It's about increased efficiency at our plants...It's about investments in renewables and clean energy. It's about investments in people's ability to lower their electricity bills by getting good, clean, efficient appliances, homes, rental units," McCarthy told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"This is an investment strategy that will really not just reduce carbon pollution but will position the United States to continue to grow economically in every state, based on their own design," McCarthy added.
In her opening statement, McCarthy said the Clean Power Plan "paves a more certain path for conventional fuels in a clean energy economy." But in the course of her testimony, it became clear that the EPA actually is paving a more certain path for clean energy in what is now a fossil-fuel economy.
Under the plan, it's up to each state to figure out how to arrive at the federally prescribed carbon-reduction goals by 2030. But "clean" energy and "efficiency" (reducing demand for fossil-fuel sources) would certainly have to be part of the mix.
Sen. John Barroso (R-Wyo.) said the proposed regulation may cause Americans pain by raising electricity prices, but it "can't make a dent" in terms of global pollution.
"Sir, what I know about this rule is that I know it will leave the United States in 2030 with a more efficient and cleaner energy supply system -- and more jobs in clean energy, which are the jobs of the future," McCarthy responded.
McCarthy said the EPA, whenever it issues a new rule, "always" hears criticism from "some small groups" about harm to the economy.
But she said she doesn't expect any adverse impact from this rule -- "other than to have jobs grow, the economy to grow, the U.S. to become more stable, the U.S. to take advantage of new technology, innovation and investments that will make us stronger over time."
The EPA says it derives its authority to steer the economy toward "clean" energy from Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.
But Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions argued that the agency has "not been given explicit statutory power to do what you're doing. You've achieved it by, I guess, a 5-4 ruling some years ago by the Supreme Court. And it ought to be viewed with skepticism."
Asked to explain what consumers can expect from the new rule, McCarthy said EPA expects people to see lower energy bills "because we're getting waste out of the system." In other words, if electricity costs more, people will use less of it.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who supports the proposed rule, asked McCarthy is she is considering stricter carbon reduction targets for states that already have achieved the levels set out in the proposed rules.
"Well, Senator, we are looking at all comments that we receive. We have a very long coment period, 120 days. We're looking forward to four public hearings next week. So we will be certainly listening to those and making appropriate changes, one way or another," McCarthy replied.
The public comment period on the proposed rule runs through October 16, 2014.
EPA Chief: Costly 'Clean Power Plan' Gives Americans 'More Opportunities to Reduce Waste'