Last week Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement slamming the EPA’s clean power plan on the grounds that it is legally flawed and will raise the state’s electricity rates, and alleging that the EPA “has improperly interpreted the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants.”
In true McCrory style—the governor has spent the summer presiding over groundbreaking ceremonies at clean energy facilities, declaring June “solar month” and touting all the clean energy jobs he’s created—he appears to be talking out of both sides of his mouth. With the help of Rachael Estes, a policy analyst at the North Carolina Conservation Network, and June Blotnick, the executive director of Clean Air Carolina, let’s fact-check what the gov has to say about the EPA’s clean-power plan.
First of all, some background: In 2007 during the Bush administration, the U.S. Supreme Court held that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA was obligated to create a compliance plan for states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels. These rules are eight years in the making, and the EPA received 4.3 million public comments that helped guide the rulemaking.
McCrory, a former Duke Energy executive, says the plan “is not based on fundamental engineering principles.”
In reality, Estes says, the rulemaking was “an open process” with “a lot of time allotted to people to give input, including engineers …so I don’t know where he got that from.”
Point two: McCrory claims that North Carolina’s air is the cleanest it’s been since we began tracking air quality. This is true, according to Charlotte-based Clean Air Carolina, because of various EPA measures (tailpipe standards, the Clean Bus Program, Clean Air Interstate Rules) and state measures (the 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act, the state’s clean energy tax credits and North Carolina being the only state in the Southeast to have Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards) that have been implemented over the last decade and earlier.
Of course, those are just the things the Legislature wants to do away with.
House Bills 332 and 760 would explicitly freeze or repeal REPS standards. Clean-energy tax credits could be allowed to expire in the new budget. H.B. 765, chock full of damaging environmental policies, would remove all air monitors in the state even though those monitors are required by the federal government.
“North Carolina has proven to be a leader in renewable energy production, but we need federal regulations,” said Clean Air Carolina’s Blotnick. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t welcome another opportunity to have a positive impact on climate change and continue to improve air quality.”
Another McCrory claim: North Carolina is on track for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 without the EPA rules. This is also true—the state cut carbon emissions by 24 percent between 2008 and 2013— but only because of the aforementioned air quality measures the state already has in place, which some lawmakers are trying to repeal. In fact, Estes says, North Carolina is already poised to exceed the emissions-reduction goal the EPA has set for the state.
“If we just stay the course, we’ll meet the EPA’s standards, and if we don’t change anything, our rates will not increase either,” she says.
Twenty-nine companies with North Carolina ties have called on McCrory to hurry up and implement a carbon-cutting plan; others have called on him to veto bills that threaten clean energy. So why does McCrory want to sue the EPA when the state is already on track to meet the requirements? You know the answer.
“I have a feeling the backlash is political,” says Estes. “This is not something the Obama administration just decided it wants to regulate. This has been a long process, starting under Bush and the Supreme Court ruling, with years of development and public comment finalizing the rules. If we had a different president implementing the exact same rules, the reaction could be much different.”