POLITICS

EPA Head McCarthy Pledges To Get Climate Rules 'Over The Finish Line' In Obama's Term

04/21/2015 04:12 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says the final rules for reducing U.S. power plant emissions will be done by mid-summer, and she's not particularly worried about legal and political attempts to block them.

The draft rule, released in June 2014, calls for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 2030. The EPA received more than 2 million comments on the proposed rules from citizens, states and private companies.

"We’re really comfortable that we can get this rule done in mid-summer and do justice to a full evaluation of all those comments, so that we can make sure that it gets over the finish line really solid," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told The Huffington Post. "It's going to be solid legally, and it's going to get some tremendous progress moving forward to address carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change."

Though the rule has not yet been finalized, there are already legal challenges underway. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard a case against the rules for existing power plants.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been personally appealing to state governors to challenge the validity of the EPA's carbon-reduction blueprint, urging them not submit compliance plans.

McCarthy said she's not worried about McConnell's campaign.

"I don’t see this call for inaction gaining momentum. In fact, just the opposite. The states are recognizing that EPA has never really crafted a rule that was so respectful of the role of states, where the federal government just says the standard and allows the states to develop their plans," said McCarthy. "They know we’re serious about this. They know climate change is serious business and concern. They know they're best positioned to design a plan that's going to work for them."

McCarthy also said the agency is taking extra time to consider the comments it's received -- a process that has pushed back the timeline on delivery of the final rules. Some states have expressed concern that the required emissions reductions for 2020 may force certain states to switch from coal power to natural gas, rather than investing in solar or wind, which might take longer to deploy.

"This is not an energy policy," said McCarthy. "We do not want to tip the scale for states in how they do their plans. We want to allow every fuel to be available. So there was some concern that we were projecting a lot of increase in natural gas, which may have decreased investment in renewables. So we’re looking really closely at that, because again, we want every fuel to be available and competitive."

She noted that even coal -- the largest source of power-sector emissions in the U.S. and the main target of the EPA's new rules -- is still projected to account for 30 percent of electricity generation in the country by 2030.

This Wednesday marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, an event that McCarthy said was pivotal to her personal involvement in environmental issues.

"It was a moment in time when we realized that all the things that we were seeing weren’t acceptable. There were people who were willing to fight for a better planet and a cleaner environment," she said. "It got me started in what I’m doing for a living."

Though the environmental movement's earliest targets were more conventional air and water pollution, McCarthy said she believes climate change will be a mobilizing issue for citizens as well.

"I’m hoping the issues of climate are going to be embraced in a similar way. It’s a big challenge, but it presents tremendous opportunities for us to grow a future that is really meaningful for our kids, but also is meaningful for us in terms of allowing us to continue to grow, think and innovate -- develop new technology, innovate, grow jobs of the future," said McCarthy. "I’m hoping that it will be embraced the same way."

The above video was produced, filmed and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy, Christine Conetta, Brad Shannon, Maxwell Tani and Adriana Usero.

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