Climate

The House Just Voted To Kill A Plan That Most Americans Support

CREDIT: AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) has been leading the House charge to kill the Clean Power Plan.

The House passed two joint resolutions Tuesday to kill the Clean Power Plan, the Obama Administration’s rule to restrict carbon emissions from the electricity sector. The resolutions passed 242-180 and 235-188 and will now head to the White House.

The Clean Power Plan would reduce emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Under the rule, states are required to design and implement flexible compliance plans that could include increases in efficiency and clean energy. Together the resolutions cover emissions restrictions on both new and existing power plants. They passed the Senate last month.

Nearly a third of the country’s emissions are from the power sector, largely due to coal-fired power plants, making the Clean Power Plan a critical component of U.S. efforts to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

During the House hearing Tuesday, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who sponsored similar resolutions, called the Clean Power Plan “extreme and unprecedented,” saying it asked too much of America’s electricity sector, especially in the context of global emissions. He also criticized the administration’s role in curbing carbon emissions. The Congressional Review Act, which authorized Tuesday’s resolutions, allows Congress to overturn executive actions.

“There’s no technology available to meet the stringent emission standard set by EPA, and yet China, India, and every other country in the world can build a new coal plant, if they decide to do so,” Whitfield said. “Why should this president penalize America and put us in jeopardy… just so he can go to France and claim to the be world leader on climate change?”

As with the Senate versions of the resolutions, the House voted largely down party lines Tuesday. Democratic Reps. Sanford Bishop (GA), Collin Peterson (MN), Brad Ashford (OH), and Henry Cuellar (TX) voted for both resolutions. On the Republican side, Reps. Richard Hanna (NY) and Bob Dold (IL) voted against the resolution covering existing power plants. They and eight other Republicans voted against the resolution covering new power plants.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) told ThinkProgress that the vote merely reinforced the fact that congressional Republicans have “no ideas” about how to address climate change.

“It’s almost laughable, to be honest with you. The entire world is watching what is going on in Paris,” Grijalva said. “And the congressional Republicans are here with their heads in the sand, demanding we make the same mistakes over and over.”

But while some have worried that congressional antics leading up to and during the Paris climate talks will cast a pallor over the United States’ potential leadership on climate change, Grijalva welcomed Tuesday’s vote. Most Americans support action on climate change, and it’s important to demonstrate representatives’ positions, he said.

“You had a chance to take a vote, you didn’t. You didn’t support the efforts going on internationally. You denied the U.S. a leadership role. Why?” he said. “I don’t think they will be able to answer those questions.”

On Monday, Grijalva and fellow co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced a resolution of their own, calling for 50 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 and a transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Grijalva said it was unlikely to come to the floor, but that it was an important signal to voters.

“Our resolution is about providing a rallying point — and a counterpoint to the efforts of the Republican side of Congress,” he said.

Opponents of the rule have largely argued that it will raise electricity costs and kill fossil fuel jobs. However, an emissions reduction program in nine northeastern states has lowered the amount households spend on electricity. In addition, recent investments in solar have spurred that industry to record job growth, and clean energy advocates — as well as disinterested researchers — have found time and time again that clean energy is good for the economy. The EPA also estimates that the Clean Power Plan, by reducing overall pollution, will save Americans billions in healthcare costs and associated economic benefits.

As David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress, “Protecting our health, our planet, and the future of all our children should not be a partisan issue.”

Tuesday’s resolutions are not the only challenges to the rule, though. Some 26 different states are suing the EPA over the rule. (Another 18 states are intervening in the lawsuit in support of the rule). It’s unclear, though, whose interests they represent. Polls have shown that Americans broadly support action on climate change and, specifically, reducing carbon from power plants. A Yale study found that the public disagrees with the Clean Power Plan in only three states. Across the opposing states, 60 percent of voters think the plan is a good idea.

Obama, who was in Paris on Monday and Tuesday, has already said he will veto the resolutions, and it does not appear that either the Senate or the House has the necessary super-majority to overturn a veto.