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GOP lawmakers accuse EPA of muzzling scientists on climate regulations

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FILE: Sunflower Electric Cooperative operates this coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kan. (AP)

Republican leaders on the House Science Committee are accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of disregarding science in its push to impose carbon dioxide limits on power plants.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and 20 other Republican lawmakers sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday, claiming the agency has "muzzled" members of its independent science advisory board.  

The EPA released a proposal in September that would set emissions caps for new coal-fired power plants and would likely require the industry to use carbon-capture technology, which involves burying the carbon underground.

Critics of the proposed rule say the technology, which is still under development, is too expensive, not commercially available and poses safety risks.  

The lawmakers claim the agency is ignoring dissenting voices on its science advisory board, which recommended a review of the science underpinning the newest power plant rule.

A senior official at EPA recently deflected the scientists' criticisms by claiming that the rule, which has yet to be finalized, doesn't need to address carbon dioxide storage, the lawmakers said. 

“We are concerned about the agency’s apparent disregard for the concerns of its science advisors,” the lawmakers wrote. “Science is a valuable tool to help policymakers navigate complex issues.  However, when inconvenient facts are disregarded or when dissenting voices are muzzled, a frank discussion becomes impossible." 

The agency maintains the carbon-capture technology has been "adequately demonstrated" based on a government-funded projects under construction in Mississippi and three planned projects in Texas, California and Canada. 

The lawmakers said the proposed mandates in the rule would "create regulatory burdens" and "litigation risks" for the coal industry and would result in the loss of American jobs. 

“The EPA’s proposed power plant regulations will put Americans out of work and will make electricity more expensive and less reliable," the lawmakers wrote. "It is misleading and dangerous for EPA to quietly dismiss inconvenient facts and ignore the consequences of its costly regulations. Americans deserve honesty.” 

In October, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., released draft legislation to block the EPA's proposal to limit emissions from new power plants and require the agency to set new rules that incorporate "commercially feasible" technologies. 

The Manchin-Whitfield proposal has yet to be officially introduced.

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