September 19, 2012

Dear Representative,

On behalf of our millions of members and online activists, we urge you to oppose H.R. 6172. This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to block critical air pollution standards for power plant standards. Carbon pollution from America’s power plants is fueling climate change, triggering more asthma attacks and other illnesses and driving increasingly extreme weather – heat waves and drought, storms and floods – with staggering costs to life, limb, and property. H.R. 6172 would rewrite the Clean Air Act and indefinitely block action to clean up America’s largest source of carbon pollution.  Congress must reject this latest attempt to keep EPA from doing its job to protect public health and our children’s future.

H.R. 6172 would rewrite the Clean Air Act to block EPA from setting any standards for power plant carbon pollution until one specific technology – carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is deemed technologically and economically feasible by a panel of four federal officials outside of EPA.

This new legal hurdle has just one purpose:  To block EPA from doing its job to protect us from dangerous power plant pollution.  We would never have held clean car and fuel efficiency standards hostage to one technology, like electric cars.  It makes no more sense for power plants and CCS.

No other polluter and no other pollutant is shielded by such a special deal under the Clean Air Act.  For more than 40 years EPA has set pollution standards for scores of industrial categories based on emissions performance¸ not on a particular technology.  Instead of command-and- control requirements to use a specific technology, each company is free to choose the cheapest way to meet that standard.  H.R. 6172 would turn that approach on its head, weakening the Clean Air Act to protect the country’s biggest carbon polluters.

H.R. 6172 puts authority over power plant standards in the hands of four non-EPA officials with no mandate to protect public health and the environment. This is an unprecedented and dangerous change to the Clean Air Act.

The panel may never be able to make the CCS finding.  Because the marketplace is already providing cleaner, competitive alternatives to coal, it will be hard for the panel to deem CCS or any coal technology as “economically feasible” as long as natural gas prices remain low. New coal-fired plants aren’t competitive today even without CCS, because our needs for new power are being met more cheaply by low-cost natural gas, improved wind turbines, and inexpensive energy efficiency.  So even though there are proven ways to cut power plant carbon emissions, EPA will be permanently blocked from setting any standards at all.

H.R. 6172 does nothing to help CCS.  Instead, it just blocks other solutions and props up dirty and uncompetitive technologies.

Americans want electricity that is both cleaner and affordable.  Fortunately, they are starting to get both now from a revolution in the electricity industry driven by competition in the marketplace and technology-neutral clean air performance standards.  Americans are getting power that is both cleaner and cheaper from a range of resources that are out-competing more expensive and dirtier alternatives.

Congress should stick with Clean Air Act performance-based standards and let the market work. Performance standards and markets drive innovation and save money for consumers.  It worked for acid rain, it’s working for clean cars, and it will work for carbon pollution.


Environment America
League of Conservation Voters
League of Women Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
Southern Environmental Law Center
US Climate Action Network


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