Climate:

Center for Biological Diversity's Snape talks EPA 'tailoring' rule lawsuit

With energy and climate talks stalled in the Senate until the fall, U.S. EPA continues to move forward with its plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources in 2011. This week, several environmental and industry groups filed lawsuits over EPA's tailoring rule for stationary sources. During today's OnPoint, Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, explains why his organization filed suit against EPA. He discusses efforts in the Senate to block EPA regulation of emissions and talks about the Senate's plans for energy and climate legislation in the fall.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. Bill, it's great to have you back on the show.

Bill Snape: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: Bill, your organization has filed suit against EPA over the tailoring rule. Explain what issues you have with the rule.

Bill Snape: Well, there are two main issues that we have with the rule, both the threshold level and the timing issue. And probably the best way to combine the two and think of the two in unison is that for major corporate industrial sources that are between 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year and 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, a lot of pollution, EPA has effectively punted regulation of those corporate entities until at least 2016. And, in fact, has given themselves more authority to go well beyond 2016. So, our suit is focused on those big corporate polluters that were covered by the proposed rule, now have slipped through the final rule.

Monica Trauzzi: And how should small sources be handled then? Do you address that at all in your suit?

Bill Snape: Well, we're going to make it very clear and have made it very clear publicly that we have no desire to have small sources regulated, no to small businesses, no to residences, on to church, hospitals, schools. Those entities will not be regulated.

Monica Trauzzi: Why do you think EPA weakened the rule that was first proposed versus the rule, the final rule that we saw?

Bill Snape: Well, I think it's part of a larger political dynamic where industry is really hammering both the EPA and the White House. I think EPA, while its intent is good and I think generically is heading in the right direction, they've been beating a retreat. They've been beat up a lot and I think when you see a comparison between the proposed rule and the final rule it's pretty evident that they were backtracking.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, so you believe that the regulation should be a bit more stringent than what was proposed, but what about all the negatives that are associated with EPA regulation? I mean most of the people that we have on this show say it's not a good vehicle for regulating greenhouse gas and emissions.

Bill Snape: Well, as you and I have discussed before, the people who say that tend to be the people that would be regulated. I think it's become conventional wisdom, false conventional wisdom that the Clean Air Act can't work. I think it's very clear the Clean Air Act can work. It's worked for other pollutants and I think once we start the process with greenhouse pollutants and we see that it works and that we're moving forward, I think that those types of objections will begin to disappear.

Monica Trauzzi: So a series of suits have been filed against EPA. What's your take on the other suits that we've seen come out this week?

Bill Snape: Well, in addition to our suit, Sierra Club has also filed suit. But what I think is most interesting are the bevy of industry and state suits, states from a conservative attorney general, such as the one in Virginia, where they've been attacking not only the tailoring rule, they're attacking the endangerment finding, they're attacking the very underpinnings of global warming science. So, you know, this is a group that they attack anything EPA does.

Monica Trauzzi: There's been talk about handling this all legislatively. Senators Carper and Casey have discussed a measure that would exempt small sources, but allow regulation of the larger sources. What's your take on a move like that coming out of Congress?

Bill Snape: We're very interested in that and we're going to work with Senator Carper and Senator Casey. The devil will be in the detail, but I think that's a very interesting development and one that we ought to be taking a close look at.

Monica Trauzzi: And that's sort of a countermeasure to what Senator Rockefeller is talking about. Do you think Senator Rockefeller's proposal has legs?

Bill Snape: No. I think for the same reasons that Murkowski's proposal failed I think Rockefeller's proposal will fail. I mean this is a coal state senator; of course he's going to be proposing this. I think his proposal will go down. We have to do a lot of work to make sure it goes down. No, I think the action is with the idea that Senator Carper and Senator Casey have put forth. That seems to be where the real action is.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, let's talk about the Senate energy bill. The Senate has punted on energy until September. What do you think the prospects are for energy legislation this year? Is this a bad sign that we couldn't get it done before August recess?

Bill Snape: Well, it's certainly disappointing. I think, at a bare minimum, the Senate must pass an oil response bill. They must respond to the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe and I think one of the reasons why the Senate didn't do so in August, besides the fact that there's a Supreme Court justice vote and the like, is we were still talking about cap and trade as of a week ago, 10 days ago. I think it confused the political situation. I think cap and trade is dead for this year, perhaps forever, and I think we ought to focus on what we can actually do, focus on cleaning up the worst environmental catastrophe in American history.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, you said cap and trade is dead, perhaps forever. Explain that.

Bill Snape: Well, I think you're seeing from all political points of view, liberal, conservative, moderate, environmentalists, industry, that they don't like cap and trade. They don't really understand cap and trade and that it really has become this smoke and mirror type of operation. And I think what we need is something much more simple, something much more direct that literally puts a price on carbon so that the American public understands it and it's not a system gamed by corporations.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, so what about the future of the RES? It wasn't included in this narrow bill that Senator Reid introduced this month. Do you think we might see that introduced in the fall?

Bill Snape: Well, I hope so. We're supportive of the RES standard. I would note that the 15 percent standard is only one or two percentage points above where we already are. I think the market may already take us above 15 percent. One of the things I like about RES, in addition to that, that's a good idea, is it doesn't have a Clean Air Act waiver. I mean that continues to be our bottom line. Let's use a science based approach. Let's use the Clean Air Act.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, so how does the future of energy legislation for the year impact EPA regulation in January of next year? What's the interplay between those two things?

Bill Snape: Well, according to the administrator, they're going to start regulating existing sources, sources already regulated by them, starting January 1, 2011; new sources that are not already regulated, but emit a lot of greenhouse pollutants, by July 1, 2011. I see that process moving forward. I think that's a positive development.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, we're going to end it there. Thank you for coming on the show.

Bill Snape: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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