Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to clarify whether the agency is still moving forward with its Clean Power Plan despite the stay on the plan that was issued by the Supreme Court on Feb. 9.
In a March 10 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Inhofe asked for clarification regarding recent comments from EPA officials that the agency will "keep moving the Clean Power Plan forward" despite the high court's February order calling for the stay. He noted that this is the first time the Supreme Court has issued a stay on a rule after one was denied by an appellate court.
"Since Feb. 9, when the Supreme Court halted EPA's implementation of the CPP, the agency's public response to the decision has ranged between muddled reticence and outright defiance, leaving impacted stakeholders and resource-strapped states confused and in limbo," Inhofe said in his letter to McCarthy. "At a Feb. 24 event, you stated, ‘I have every respect for the Supreme Court and their decision, and we will keep abiding by that faithfully, but we will keep moving the Clean Power Plan forward.'"
There are indications, Inhofe said, "that EPA may not abide by compliance deadline tolling requirements," — that is, requirements to extend the deadlines in the Clean Power Plan that were part of the stay request that was granted by the Supreme Court.
"Possibly you are attempting to intimidate states into continuing their planning process since the CPP is the mainstay of the Administration's Paris COP21 promise; without the CPP, the President's goal of reducing GHG emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 is impossible to achieve."
"These reports are very troubling," Inhofe continued. "The purpose of the stay is to maintain the status quo, pausing implementation of the rule in its entirety until completion of judicial review. It is highly inappropriate for EPA to use the fear of potential deadline truncation to coerce states and stakeholders into continuing their resource-draining planning activities, particularly if those activities drive investment and planning decisions that lead to irreversible impacts on affected power plants and ratepayers alike, in direct contravention of the Supreme Court's stay order."
"The law, longstanding precedent, and EPA's own words and actions support the tolling of all compliance deadlines as a result of the stay," said the senator from Oklahoma. All CPP deadlines should be delayed "even if the rule ultimately survives judicial review," he said.
Inhofe asked McCarthy to answer a number of questions about its plans regarding the Clean Power Plan by March 31, including whether it will "abide by the tolling requirements inherent in the Supreme Court's stay decision." He asked for details about what CPP planning efforts continue and what work has been halted by the EPA. He also asked how much funding is currently being allocated to CPP implementation-related activities, and how many full-time employees are working on those activities. Inhofe also asked how the current resource allocation compares to allocations prior to the stay, and how the agency plans to adjust its projected funding and activities for fiscal year 2017, "in light of the stay."