NRDC's Doniger discusses readiness of states, industry to comply with EPA GHG rules

With industry sounding the alarm on pending greenhouse gas emissions regulation, how much of an impact will the new rules have on the economy? During today's OnPoint, David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, explains why he believes EPA regulation of emissions will have minimal economic impacts. He says states and industry have had adequate time to prepare for the new regulations and discusses efforts in Congress to restrict EPA from regulating.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. David, it's nice to have you here.

David Doniger: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: David, we recently had Governor Freudenthal of Wyoming on the show, and he said his state is not prepared for EPA's regulation of emissions. Do you think EPA has given the states adequate time and direction on this new regulation?

David Doniger: Yes, I do. I think everything is going to go very smoothly at the beginning of next year. It's going to be -- people won't even notice the bump in the road. Either the states or the EPA will be ready to deliver permits for the big sources that need them for their greenhouse gas emissions, and everyone who needs a permit will have an agency to get it from. And the smaller sources that don't need permits will not be hassled.

Monica Trauzzi: There are many who would disagree with you, namely industry. They have some pretty major concerns that these regulations are going to have negative economic impacts. So do you think that industry can carry on with business as usual and comply with these stringent regulations?

David Doniger: Well, remember that what's required of a big source is to use available, affordable pollution controls for their greenhouse gases, starting next year. That's exactly what's required, what's been required for 30 years for other pollutants. And big new pollution sources get permitted, the economy keeps growing, pollution declines and we go ahead making progress.

Monica Trauzzi: Scott Segal of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council recently said on our show that if Congress and the administration don't do something to delay EPA's regulation, they're basically agreeing to a moratorium on new construction in energy and manufacturing sectors. Do you think regulation will have these types of impact?

David Doniger: No. There's no moratorium coming. There is no construction moratorium coming.

Monica Trauzzi: What evidence is there of that?

David Doniger: Well, the fact is that the states, 49 of the states, either on their own or backed up by EPA, are ready to issue permits for greenhouse gas emissions, along with the regular permits for the other pollutants starting in January of next year. The only place which is not cooperating, where they are really not prepared, is Texas, and that is a self-inflicted wound that Texas is doing to itself.

Monica Trauzzi: Is there an option here to make both sides happy? Is there something that EPA can do that will please both industry and those who are pushing for this regulation?

David Doniger: Well, I think there's something of an effort to stampede the Congress going on right now, because when these regulations take effect in January, it will prove out that they can be complied with, that reasonable measures to improve efficiency may be a consideration of alternative fuels for some sources. These are the kinds of things that will be required. It will be mostly state decisionmaking about what is exactly deemed to be available and achievable. And the strategy from the business side right now is to wave a bloody shirt about moratoria on construction and try to stampede action before it turns out that everyone can see that this is workable.

Monica Trauzzi: So do you think that's enough to get some action in Congress, especially with the shift in the House, more Republicans in the Senate? Do you think that there's a chance that something like that could pass?

David Doniger: Well, first, in the lame duck, we're working very hard to make sure that no cutbacks in the EPA authority under the Clean Air Act will pass the Congress. Now, in the next Congress, is it going to be more of a challenge? I'm sure that's true. But the last time that the Republican-controlled Congress attacked the environmental laws, air and water pollution control laws, in the 1990s, they got their fingers burned. They found out that that's not what the public intended them to do. That's not what their supporters voted for them to do. And there's no mandate in this election to cut back on the public health and safety laws of the United States.

Monica Trauzzi: But there is a mandate to get some new jobs in play --

David Doniger: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: And improve the economy.

David Doniger: Right. So recently, one of the major unions, and I think it was the AFL, reported that actually the requirement to upgrade pollution controls on electric power plants would be a major source of employment for idle skilled workers, boilermakers and others. There's plenty of work that needs to be done and plenty of workers ready to do those jobs. This program of upgrading the pollution controls to protect our health and to deal with global warming pollution is a major employment booster.

Monica Trauzzi: The UNFCCC's annual meeting will be at the end of this month. Is EPA regulation enough to please the international community? What do you think the reaction is going to be to what the U.S. has done or hasn't done this year?

David Doniger: Well, I think other countries are looking for the administration, the president, to reaffirm, as they have been doing, the commitments making a 17 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. And a very large part of that can be done under existing law, under our energy efficiency laws as well as the Clean Air Act. We ultimately need new legislation that makes the longer-term reductions, the deeper reductions that we need to solve the global warming problem. But there's going to be time before 2020 to come back to that. And we hope that progress can be made in the next Congress on legislation that helps reduce emissions. But under the existing law, there's quite a bit of authority to make reasonable reductions and make progress towards the president's goal. So the international community wants to see the reaffirmation of those commitments.

Monica Trauzzi: Republicans have indicated that they have serious plans for oversight during the next Congress, and EPA regulation will obviously be in full focus. What do you think these oversight hearings will uncover? I mean, has EPA rushed to get this regulation on the books? Is that kind of what we're going to be hearing next year?

David Doniger: Well, you know, we'll hear lots of things, but what the EPA has done is extraordinarily thorough. The review of the science behind the endangerment finding done twice, first for the original finding, second for the consideration, is extraordinarily thorough. You cannot lay a glove on the scientific review that EPA did, and the lawsuits are going nowhere. So I think the oversight of science issues and of EPA's regulatory preparations will really turn -- show that the EPA is doing a damn good job.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it there on that note.

David Doniger: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: Thank you for coming on the show.

David Doniger: Thanks.

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

[End of Audio]



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