Alexander criticizes EPA rules as unfair to TN and nuclear power

Michael Collins reports on U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s lecture to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on the Obama administration’s preference for wind and solar energy over nuclear power. As a result, the senator thinks Tennessee isn’t getting the pollution-reduction credit it’s due.

Alexander took McCarthy to task last week because the Obama administration is treating nuclear power differently — and in his view, a bit unfairly — than wind and solar energy in its proposed rules to cut carbon emissions.

“Sixty percent of the country’s carbon-free electricity, emission-free electricity, comes from nuclear power,” Alexander told McCarthy during a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment. “Wind produces 13 percent. Solar produces 1 percent.

“If you’re really serious about climate change, if you’re really serious about clean air, then why would you disadvantage nuclear power and treat wind and solar better?”

Alexander, who has called for the construction of more nuclear plants, is upset that Tennessee will have to make a 38.9 percent cut in carbon emissions under the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan — but won’t get credit for meeting emissions standards through the new Watts Bar nuclear reactor near Spring City, Tenn.

…Tennessee is doing “a terrific job of making agreements with the EPA, cleaning up the coal plants, building nuclear plants, having hydro plants,” Alexander said, yet it is “being penalized because you’re preferring wind and solar — which produce little — over nuclear, which produces a lot of what we want.”

“It’s the energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats when the nuclear navy is available,” Alexander said, pulling out a line that he uses often to describe the inconsistency.

“I like the analogy,” McCarthy said, smiling.

She told Alexander the EPA was aware of the discrepancy.

“We are really looking at that,” she said.