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House Votes To Weaken And Delay The EPA’s Climate Rule

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH

The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would delay and weaken the federal government’s proposed regulations on power plant emissions.

The bill, called the Ratepayer Protection Act and sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), would allow governors to refuse to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Governors who claim that the regulations would have a “significant adverse effect” on electric bills or grid reliability in their states could opt out of making plans to cut power plant emissions.

“This is a worldwide problem and there’s no reason for the president of the United States to unilaterally punish America for what we’ve already accomplished,” Whitfield said of the carbon rule. “It’s such a power grab, unprecedented, that we are going to take it up on the floor today to delay this radical regulation.”

The bill, which passed 247–180, would also delay the implementation of the Clean Power Plan until all the court challenges surrounding the proposed regulation are resolved. Two of those lawsuits — one from a group of energy companies led by coal company Murray Energy Corp., and the other from a group of 15 states led by coal-heavy West Virginia — were dismissed earlier this year, when a judge ruled that because the rule isn’t yet finalized, it’s too early to be considering legal challenges. But once the rule is finalized, more lawsuits will likely be filed.

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The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which was proposed last June, seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Under the rule, states will come up with their own ways of meeting target cuts in emissions. The final version is expected this summer.

The White House has promised to veto the Ratepayer Protection Act if it makes it to President Obama’s desk. The bill, the White House said in a statement, “would give governors unprecedented and broad discretion to avoid compliance with the [Clean Air Act], thereby delaying the delivery of important public health benefits.” In addition, to interfere legislatively with the rule before it’s finalized would be “an unprecedented interference with EPA’s efforts to fulfill its duties under the [Clean Air Act],” the White House stated.

Some governors, however, haven’t waited for the bill’s passage to announce their plans to refuse compliance with the Clean Power Plan. On Wednesday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) sent a letter to the White House saying that his state wouldn’t be complying with the proposed regulations unless they are “significantly improved.”

“I believe the Clean Power Plan as proposed is a vast overreach of federal power that exceeds the EPA’s proper legal authority and fails to strike the proper balance between the health of the environment and the health of the economy,” he wrote.

Pence isn’t the only one that has vowed to reject the rules. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) also said his state wouldn’t comply with the rule unless it underwent “significant and meaningful changes,” and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) issued an executive order earlier this year prohibiting state agencies from coming up with a plan to combat power plant emissions.