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Industries Fault EPA Climate Rules Seeing Themselves Next

Refiners, paper makers and steel producers have taken aim at a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse gases from power plants, saying they worry it sets a dangerous precedent for them.

Lobbying groups told the EPA in comments released today that the agency is going beyond what’s feasible with current tools in requiring new coal plants to capture carbon gases. Once EPA finishes rules for power plants, the top source of carbon dioxide emissions tied to climate change, it has pledged to move to other major emitters.

“EPA must fundamentally rethink and rework this proposal,” Ross Eisenberg, vice president for the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, said today on a conference call. “This rule would pose a bad precedent for other industries.”

The group, representing companies such as General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc., is spearheading a drive by 140 organizations, including those for makers of chemicals, steel, bricks and fertilizer, in lobbying against the EPA’s climate effort.

The administration of President Barack Obama is pressing ahead with efforts to limit greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for global warming. The heart of that effort are regulations from the EPA on power plants. In September the agency proposed rules for new power plants, on which NAM filed comments. EPA is set to issue the more far-reaching rules for existing power plants next month.

Global Warming

While restrictions on emissions of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants have been in place for years, these will be the first for gases most blamed for climate change.

Under the EPA’s proposal, new coal-fired plants would cut emissions to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide for each megawatt hour of power they produce, a standard that can’t be met without carbon-capture technology. Most gas plants would need to meet a 1,000 pound standard, which won’t require exceptional technology.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Earthjustice have organized the submissions of thousands of petitions in support of the EPA proposal, saying the action is needed to start addressing the risk of rising seas, stronger droughts and melting glaciers. They say the technology is already being put to use, and will help preserve a place for coal in the future.

Coal Producers

Coal producers and representatives of utilities such as Southern Co. oppose the EPA’s proposal, saying the technology to capture the carbon isn’t technically feasible and ready for the market, and the rules aren’t in place to govern the storage of the gas once its captured.

Lobbyists from other industries are offering a slightly different twist on this argument: If EPA is willing to go this far on coal plants, what will it do for those its regulates next?

“We provide these comments in part to identify the myriad errors made in the proposed rule so that EPA does not repeat those errors,” the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a Washington group that represents companies such as Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., told the agency. Refiners may be next in line.

The American Farm Bureau, papermaker Domtar Corp. and Waste Management Inc. made similar arguments in their comments.

“The ultimate impacts of these regulations could extend to the rest of the industrial economy, from refining to manufacturing and potentially agriculture,” the American Farm Bureau Federation told the agency.

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