U.S. lawmakers threaten to subpoena EPA over power plant regs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday threatened to subpoena the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to obtain documents related to rules on carbon pollution from power plants. Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy wrote to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, saying that despite meetings between committee staff and EPA staff, "EPA has been wholly unresponsive to the committee." The lawmakers have argued that the EPA's proposed carbon emission performance standards for new coal-fired power plants are not valid because they require the installation of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that is currently not available on a commercial scale in the United States. Upton and Murphy said a subpoena could be issued if the requested documents are not delivered by July 23. The request is part of a wider effort by House Republicans to stop the EPA from implementing new rules curbing carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee proposed as part of a must-pass spending bill a measure that would prevent the agency from implementing carbon restrictions. Upton and Murphy say the EPA may have violated the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by relying on the viability of CCS in its regulatory proposal. Some lawmakers and industry groups have argued that the 2005 law states that a technology cannot be deemed "adequately demonstrated" if it receives federal funding to be operational. The Department of Energy's clean coal power initiative has partially funded a few demonstration CCS projects. The EPA has said new coal-fired power plants could meet stricter emissions limits because CCS has been "adequately demonstrated" and is the best available control technology available to plants. Some of the documents requested by the committee include names of EPA employees responsible for reviewing the 2005 act and how it relates to the new power plant rule, and communications between EPA and DOE employees about CCS projects that have received funding. The EPA had responded to an earlier request made by the lawmakers in March by saying it believed it had completed collection of responsive documents but would withhold "deliberative" documents until completion of the rulemaking process. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Ros Krasny)