WASHINGTON – Indiana may refuse to comply with a pending federal rule to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the head of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said Wednesday.
IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly testified at a Senate hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule, which would require Indiana to reduce by 20 percent the amount of carbon dioxide generated per unit of electricity by 2030.
Indiana could come up with a plan for meeting that target on its own, and it could join with others for a multistate approach.
Or, Easterly said, Indiana could refuse to comply under what he called the “just say no option.”
“Indiana is evaluating all available responses,” he said.
If a state does not come up with a plan for meeting its required reduction, the EPA will impose its own plan.
The agency is in the process of evaluating the more than 1.4 million comments it received about the proposal and plans to issue a final version by midsummer. States would have a year to come up with a plan to meet their reduction targets.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments next month in a lawsuit filed by Indiana and 11 other states challenging the EPA’s authority to issue the regulation.
McCabe has said the emissions reduction targets for each state took into account how difficult it would be to comply, given how reliant states are on coal-generated electricity. Indiana gets more than 80 percent of its power from coal-fired power plants.
“But wherever the state is, whatever its mix is, there are opportunities there and there are opportunities in Indiana and West Virginia and everywhere to reduce the carbon intensity of the power production,” McCabe told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last month.
The committee asked states to give their views of the proposal Wednesday.
Easterly and officials from Wyoming and Wisconsin criticized the rule as unrealistic and damaging to their states’ economies and to energy reliability.
Officials from California and New York testified that their states show that carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced without great pain.
“I have good news for other states,” said Michael J. Myers of the New York Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. “You can significantly reduce these emissions from the power sector and do so in a way that grows the economy.”
But to do that, Myers said, “each state has to be willing to take the wheel.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Easterly whether he has accounted for the costs to Indiana of the changing climate if no action is taken.
“I don’t think you can quantify any cost of future climate change on the state of Indiana,” Easterly said. “There’s nothing concrete to quantify. There’s speculation.”
A federal advisory committee said in a report released last year that global warming is already damaging every region of the country and that problems will increase.
Effects in the Midwest include more intense heat waves, more humidity and worse air quality. More extreme rainfalls will cause erosion and affect water quality, according to the National Climate Assessment report. The Great Lakes will see more invasive species and more algae blooms, and beach quality will degrade.
Easterly told the committee there are natural variations in the climate.
“The environment of our Earth has been changing for all of recorded history,” he said. “Indiana used to be under a huge ice sheet.”
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- On March 13, 2015