Resolutions Introduced in Congress Against EPA’s CO2 Plans for New and Existing Plants

House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., on Oct. 26 introduced two resolutions under the Congressional Review Act disapproving of two final rules published on Oct. 23 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate CO2 emissions from new and existing fossil-fuel fired power plants.

One resolution relates to EPA’s CO2 emissions rule for new plants under section 111(b) and the second resolution relates to EPA’s rule for existing plants (called the Clean Power Plan) under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Power Plan calls for 32 percent greenhouse gas emissions reductions from existing power plants by 2030, and the rule for new plants call for mandatory carbon capture and storage systems on all new coal plants.

On Aug. 3, the EPA announced the two final rules and on Oct. 23 the rules were published in the Federal Register. The Oct. 23 publications signaled the start of lawsuits against the plans, including lawsuits filed by a coalition of states and coal producer Murray Energy.

Whitfield, who hails from a state that is heavily dependent on both coal production and coal-fired power, said these two rules seek to fundamentally change the way America generates, distributes, and consumes electricity and would impose an unprecedented new regulatory structure throughout the electricity sector. He noted that companion resolutions of disapproval are expected to be introduced in the Senate. 

Whitfield commented: “There’s nothing in the Clean Air Act that authorizes EPA to implement these unprecedented rules. Just last week witnesses testified before the Subcommittee on Energy and Power regarding the regulations’ legal flaws and twenty-six states have already filed legal challenges. An EPA takeover of the electricity sector is a recipe for higher bills, reduced reliability, and job losses. These resolutions stand up for ratepayers, jobs, and affordable energy in Kentucky and throughout the country.”

In June, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act by a bipartisan vote. H.R. 2042 would allow for the completion of judicial review of any final rule before requiring states to comply and protects states from being forced into implementing a state or federal cap and trade plan if the governor finds the rules will have an adverse effect on rates or reliability.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Oct. 27 that he and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) designed to stop the new plant rule. McConnell also joined Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in filing a separate CRA that relates to the regulation affecting existing plants.

A CRA provides Congress the ability to eliminate onerous regulations imposed by the executive branch through an expedited procedure for consideration in the Senate. McConnell said he plans to schedule votes on the CRAs later this year. If both CRAs are enacted into law, they would nullify both pillars of the power rule even if portions of the plan have already gone into effect.

Said McConnell about the CRA in Oct. 27 remarks on the Senate floor: “Together, these measures represent a comprehensive solution. Colleagues will join me to speak about these resolutions later today. I’m sure they’ll say more about the measures we’ve filed and the process associated with them. What everyone should know is this. The publication of these regulations does not represent an end, but a beginning. It’s the beginning of a new front to defend hardworking Middle Class Americans from massive regulations that target them. That front is opening here in Congress, and it’s opening across the country as states file lawsuits and Governors stand up for their own Middle Class constituents. The battle may not be short or easy. But Kentuckians and hardworking Americans should know that I’m going to keep standing up for them throughout.”

Lead image: Capitol Hill, Washington DC. Credit: Shutterstock.

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Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.

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