Mead, McCarthy discuss Clean Power, Waters of the U.S. during governor’s meetingWritten by Saige Albert
Washington, D.C. – During the National Governor’s Association meeting, held in Washington, D.C. last week, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead chaired a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee where governors from across the nation met to discuss water and energy issues.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy joined the discussion to answer questions related to the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
“Drought, expanding domestic energy production and aging water infrastructure have all introduced significant challenges in the states and have demonstrated the relationship between energy and water resources,” Mead commented during the Feb. 22 meeting. “Developing state policies that address these challenges in collaboration with the federal government can help maximize the efficient use of resources and better prepare states for energy and water challenges.”
“This meeting is another wonderful opportunity for us to establish deeper relationships with one another, which I think we need,” McCarthy commented. “We work really hard, and I know there are challenges.”
“To address the challenges that we are facing to protect public health and the environment, which is EPA’s mission, it has to be a partnership with states,” she continued. “States will find EPA willing and able to be their partner and seeking to do that more as much as we can because I really believe that the work that we are doing together in this area’s important for the future of the people we serve and to the current public health of the American family.”
McCarthy further noted that work with the states has resulted in positive results, including a 70 percent reduction in air pollution. She also noted that success has been seen in rehabilitating nearly half of the nation’s polluted waterways.
“We have had technology thrive, jobs grow and things have gotten stronger,” McCarthy said. “This is a record we need to continue and one that will require us to collaborate more.”
As challenges continue to increase in their complicated nature, she added that it is more important than ever to work together.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which looks to reduce carbon emissions, is one EPA action creating controversy.
“The President considers climate change to be a public health, environmental health and national security challenge,” McCarthy commented. “It is important that we move forward to address the challenge of climate change.”
While McCarthy noted, “States will always be better in designing plans than the federal government,” she also emphasized EPA’s flexibility in putting the plan together.
“We are going to maximize the advantages so we can keep the opportunities for emissions reductions as high as we can reasonably get,” she continued. “We are maintaining reasonable cost-effective energy supply systems.”
With over 3.5 million comments on the proposal, McCarthy noted that they will consider all concerns in moving forward.
For Wyoming’s energy future, Mead noted, “As the number one exporter of BTUs, Wyoming believes in an all-above approach to energy.”
Coal, he emphasized, is an important part of Wyoming’s economy, and Mead said, “As we look at this rule, it seems like a target on coal.”
When Mead asked McCarthy if coal continues to play a role in the energy future of the U.S. and if coal should continue to be used, she said, “We still see coal as being a significant part of the energy mix in 2030.”
“We see energy efficiency as being the least-cost pathway to achieving reductions,” McCarthy continued. “It is great to provide an opportunity to save money while reducing carbon pollution.”
She also noted that states will have the flexibility to determine what they need to do to meet carbon reduction goals using their choice of fuels.
“I don’t believe any state is being asked to do more than they can achieve,” McCarthy added.
Related to water, McCarthy noted that an increased focus on water by EPA has been seen, especially in light of the increase in the incidence of drought in the West, means that there are continued opportunities to work together.
When it comes to the Clean Water Act, McCarthy noted that the WOTUS rule is necessary for providing clarity and consistency on jurisdiction of the act.
“It is an enormously challenging task but one that is essential if we are going to allow science to tell us what rivers and streams and water bodies really need to be protected so that we can make sure that if there are pollutants put in those, or if they are being filled in any way, that we can make sure that the protections are there for our drinking water supplies,” McCarthy explained.
“The WOTUS rule is all about providing clarity and certainty,” she said. “We have been out in communities and holding hearings. I do not want to raise more uncertainty. I want to provide clarity.”
On the ground
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple expressed concern over the rule, saying, “As the heart of the Prairie Pothole region, I have to mention the proposed rule on WOTUS. The state of North Dakota is covered with small, wet areas. Every farm has a spot that might be considered a wetland, but 95 percent of the year they are bone dry.”
He also continued that the notion that EPA should control those areas is “not common sense.”
“The people in North Dakota, and especially the farmers, hear what is being proposed, and they feel that it makes no sense whatsoever,” Dalrymple commented.
McCarthy answered, “If I never hear the word ‘ditch’ again, it will be such a happy day. This is one of the issues that we need to resolve.”
After an hour-long meeting, Mead and the other governors present recognized McCarthy’s willingness to continually meet with the states. He also noted, however, that solutions must be reached that work for the states.
“As the federal government as a whole is looking at this, if there is a problem, there is the environmental side,” Mead stated, “but there is also innovation and technology. How do we find scientific solutions to these problems?”
Mead commented, “We didn’t move from the candle to the light bulb or the horse to the car because of regulations but because we had innovation and an atmosphere where people wanted to invest money because they saw a future.”