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Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks on Climate Action at CERA in Houston Texas, As Prepared

02/24/2016
Hi everyone. I’m glad to be here, thank you for having me.

In many respects, the last year has been an incredible one for progress on climate and clean energy – with major milestones both domestically and internationally, and tremendous momentum in the transition of our energy sector here in the United States.

Renewable energy costs have plummeted. Clean energy technologies accounted for well over half of our new installed power-sector capacity in the last year. With long-term extensions of the renewable energy tax credit, Congress pretty much assured that renewables will continue to dominate the marketplace.

And current estimates indicate well over 100 gigawatts of wind and solar are going to be installed over the next 5 years – that will roughly double our installed base of these technologies and reduce our power sector emissions by 10 percent.

This is exactly the kind of market momentum we’ve been thinking about and hoping for.

And progress isn’t just limited to this country. A few months ago in Paris, nearly every nation on Earth came together for the first time ever to announce a universal agreement to act on climate.

Many of your companies and colleagues were there in Paris—because you know we can’t choose between climate action and growing the economy. We have to do both.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius at most, and to pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees.

These levels will help prevent some of the most devastating impacts of climate change, including more frequent and extreme droughts, storms, fires, and floods, as well as catastrophic sea level rise.

The agreement applies to all countries; it sets meaningful accountability and reporting requirements; and it brings countries back to the table every five years to grow their commitments as markets change and technologies improve.

So, it’s safe to say we hit the ground running in 2016.

We set some very ambitious—but very achievable—goals for ourselves in the U.S., and we are very much on-track to realize them.

How do I know that? Lots of reasons. Here are just a few.

Today, the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. Electricity generated from renewables is expected to grow by 9% in 2016 alone.

The U.S. added 8.6 gigawatts of wind power capacity in 2015 – and those installations represent a 65% increase from 2014 levels. Today every major U.S. automaker offers electric vehicles.

Since 2009, the American auto industry has added at least 250,000 jobs. That’s because they’re selling the technologies that people actually want to buy.

These market signals speak for themselves. The train has left the station.

And in case it wasn’t already abundantly clear where this country is headed in terms of our low carbon future, the President and Congress worked together to extend the renewable energy investment and production tax credits.

Not only does it make sense to further policies that ensure that we harvest the rich economic opportunities of clean energy, it helps make sure we’re establishing policies that honor the value that Americans are placing on clean air, and on tackling climate change.

We also know that renewable energy actually provides us with incredible opportunities to innovate, to keep demand for dirty fuels down, and to keep energy prices down as well. That’s what American ingenuity is all about: win-wins.

At EPA, we’re continuing to look across this incredible market momentum, and we’re underpinning it with action.

Over the past few years, we’ve been pretty busy. We set historic greenhouse gas standards that will send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade.

We’re taking action on hydrofluorocarbons – or HFCs, Methane, and, as you know, we launched our Clean Power Plan last summer. So again, the point is – we’re moving forward. And we’re very much on track to meet both our moral obligations to our kids and grandkids, and our commitments to the global community.

So let me say a bit more on methane and Clean Power Plan. Because I know they’re on your minds.

We have been and continue to look at methane emissions very closely. Methane is upwards of 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By tackling methane emissions, we can unlock an amazing opportunity to better protect our environment for the future.

That’s why this summer, we announced proposed standards to directly reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The United States is the largest natural gas producer in the world, providing fuel for efficient power generation and to heat American homes and businesses.

The proposed standards present a common-sense way to make sure that as the natural gas industry continues to grow, we’re doing what we can to reduce methane pollution.

And the proposed standards are cost effective by design – they’re built to reduce pollution that’s fueling climate change while supporting responsible energy development at the same time.

Our comment period closed last month and we’re currently reviewing the more than 900,000 comments we received on our proposal as we work toward issuing final rules this spring.

We’ve also been working hard to expand our incredibly valuable voluntary partnerships to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, through our new Methane Challenge program.

The program is a platform for companies that want to commit to addressing their methane emissions, and test new innovative technologies.

And I’ll just point out—there are companies out there who are choosing to make ambitious commitments. They are choosing to place themselves on the leading edge, and it’s really encouraging.

The Methane Challenge program is flexible, it fosters cost-effective reductions, and it provides transparency on the progress partner companies are making.

We accepted feedback on the proposed program for several months last year, and we’re aiming to launch in the coming weeks.

So again – we’re moving forward. But we’re also remaining vigilant.

Because as science advances and data emerges, we need to make sure we’re addressing the biggest climate challenges, where the biggest opportunities can be found.

Earlier this week, EPA released a draft of our 21st annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory for public comment. The draft inventory presents data on total reported U.S. greenhouse gas emissions across many sectors of our economy – including oil and gas.

With this current draft inventory, we were able to include substantial amounts of new information on methane emissions that are now available through a number of channels – including our fellow government agencies, industry organizations, and academic and industry researchers.

The new information shows that methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector are substantially higher than we previously understood.

And I want to be clear about this – the data do not necessarily mean that emissions have gone up. Rather, they provide a fuller picture of methane emissions that are taking place.

And studies from groups like EDF and its industry and research partners at Colorado State University, Carnegie Mellon, University of Texas, Washington State University, and others are contributing to our more-complete understanding of emissions from this sector.

So the bottom line is – the data confirm that we can and must do more on methane.

It has always been EPA’s job to follow where the science and data lead us. So that’s exactly what we plan to do moving forward. And I know we’ll be engaging closely with many of you throughout that process.

So be on the lookout for more on this to come soon, because this is something we’re not going to ignore.

Now, on the Clean Power Plan. I want to touch on the recent Supreme Court stay.

Was I disappointed about it? Sure. I really wanted to be the one to sign that very first state plan approval. But, does it slow down this country’s transition to a low carbon future? Absolutely not.

The stay does not overturn years of effort and state, federal and stakeholder collaboration on the Clean Power Plan. We now understand this landscape incredibly well. We’ve developed partnerships that we know will endure – within and between states and across the utility industry. And because of the network of relationships that arose through this process, many more decision-makers and investors understand the range of opportunities for making progress.

The stay does not preclude states, tribes, and utilities from continuing to act on climate. In fact, many have already said that they’re going to keep moving forward. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Vermont, Washington and others all stood up within 24 hours of the stay decision and said that they are moving forward.

The stay does not reverse the course of history that was set with the Paris agreement. Over the past decade, the U.S. has cut greenhouse gas emissions more than any nation on earth. And we didn’t have the Clean Power Plan ten years ago. We remain as confident as ever that we’ll meet our emissions reductions goals.

The stay also doesn’t preclude EPA from continuing to make progress on climate. Are we going to respect the decision of the Supreme Court? You bet we are. But that doesn’t mean we won’t continue to support any state that voluntarily wants to move forward.

And finally, the stay doesn’t stop the many other steps we’re taking to act on climate. Because last I checked, the Clean Power Plan isn’t the only thing we’re working on. So on methane, on HFC’s, on heavy duty vehicles, on aircraft, and on climate resilience… we’re moving forward.

We remain fully confident in the legal merits of this rule, and that ultimately, it will stand the test of time.

So, to continue making progress, we’re going to need your input and collaboration.

This industry is large, complex, and changing rapidly. We recognize that. We also know that your businesses are vital to the country’s economy and energy security. And by the way, this industry is also one of the major driving forces in our transition to a less carbon intensive future.

So we need your engagement now more than ever.

I want to thank those of you who have worked with us over the past few years, provided your feedback and input, and stepped up voluntarily to take actions and be leaders in your sector.

We need your continued partnership, leadership, and engagement. Keep stepping up.

So – to anyone who thinks EPA is done on climate, I say: we are not done. And to anyone who questions this country’s ability to follow through on our ambitious emissions reductions targets, I say: we will meet those targets.

We are moving forward, we are very much on track, and I’m as revved up as ever.

Thank you.
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