House Passes Bill That Would Curb EPA’s Power To Limit Carbon Emissions

CREDIT: AP Photo/Molly Riley

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to block the EPA’s recent rules limiting carbon pollution from power plants, a move aimed at curbing President Obama’s “war on Coal.”

The House voted 229-183 in support of the bill, which was introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and would force the EPA to make its carbon regulations for power plants based on emission-reducing technology that has been successfully used for at least a year in at least six different power plants. It would prohibit the EPA from requiring coal-fired power plants to use Carbon Capture and Storage technology, which Whitfield and some other lawmakers said isn’t readily available enough to be economically viable.

Whitfield said in an interview with E&E News that the bill’s goal was to keep the coal industry alive.

“What we’re trying to preserve is in the future if the need is there, this is an option that is there: to build a coal plant,” he said. “That’s all we’re talking about.”

The bill has gained the support of House Republicans and some House Democrats, seven of whom have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. According to an analysis by CAP Action, the 229 members who voted for the bill have accepted more than $45.7 million in contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries over the course of their careers — an amount that’s more than 8 times the $5.4 million accepted by the 183 members who voted against the bill — and 123 of them have publicly denied climate change. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has also introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The NRDC called the passage of the bill in the House “a major weakening of the Clean Air Act,” though they predicted that the bill wouldn’t get far in the Senate.

“If this bill were to become law, it would seriously cripple the Obama Administration’s ongoing drive to curb dangerous carbon pollution,” Dan Lashof, program director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC said in a statement.

Despite the House’s efforts to curb the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, recent polling has found that the EPA’s proposed emissions rules are popular among Americans. A League of Conservation Voters poll from October found that 74 percent of respondents in swing Senate states “favor the EPA’s proposed regulations to limit the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can release into the air.”

But news out of the House hasn’t been all bad in terms of reducing carbon emissions this week. On Wednesday, the House passed the Better Buildings Act, which will promote energy efficiency in buildings that are leased out to tenants. If passed, the bill would create the Tenant Star program, which would act similarly to the Energy Star program in recognizing buildings that have made strides in energy efficiency. It would also direct the Department of Energy to study how building-owners can make their tenant-leased spaces more energy efficient. The bill is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), who said the bill is a good step towards increasing energy efficiency in buildings.

“Today’s vote is significant because it’s the first bipartisan bill on energy policy that says, ‘Let’s take steps together on energy efficiency,’” Welch said. “It’s modest, but in the context of the Congress that we’re in, it’s actually constructive, useful and meaningful.”

The bill has some of the same features as a bill reintroduced in the Senate by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in late February. The Senators had tried last year to pass a similar bill, but failed after some Senate Republicans tried to attach measures delaying Obamacare into the bill.

Tiffany Germain contributed to this post.