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Republicans use unemployment extension bill to thwart EPA

Senate Republicans have introduced an amendment to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing any new regulations until it publicly reports the economic impacts of existing clean air regulations.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe has attached the amendment onto the Senate version of the unemployment insurance extension bill. The amendment would halt pending EPA regulations designed to curb carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

“If we really want to address our long-term unemployment problem, it’s time that the EPA and the Obama administration actually take into account the economic impact of their costly and onerous regulations,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who is co-sponsoring the bill.

The bill is being backed by several Senate Republican heavyweights other than Blunt, inlcuding Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. All of these Republicans have criticized the Obama EPA’s regulatory agenda, as the agency ramps up regulations that would force the retirement of coal plants across the country.

“Our economy has struggled to regain lost jobs from the 2008 recession largely in part to the Obama Administration’s costly regulatory agenda,” Inhofe said. “Under the Obama Administration, the EPA has finalized countless regulations affecting every industry and preventing millions of American jobs from being created.”

The EPA published its first ever carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The rule would limit carbon emissions to 1,100 pounds of per megawatt hour. The average U.S. coal plant emits more than 1,700 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour. Coal plants can only comply with the regulation if they adopt carbon capture and sequestration technology, which the coal industry says is commercially unproven.

The agency is also crafting rules to limit carbon emissions for existing power plants, which the coal industry fears will force more coal plants to prematurely shut down. Environmentalists argue that emission limits are needed to curb the effects of global warming.

“The Administration set the bar high when they said that the point of the Presidents climate action plan was to meet the 17 percent economy-wide target that Obama set in Copenhagen,” John Coequyt with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign told ThinkProgress in a phone interview.

“We believe that the power sector needs to reduce emissions by about 25 percent from 2012 levels to achieve that,” Coequyt added. “We look forward to seeing what the EPA proposes this summer for existing power plants.”

“It’s absolutely unbelievable that on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, the EPA has just announced another regulation that will increase poverty in coal country,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso.

“Less than one day after President Obama pledged to help unemployed Americans, his Administration is rolling out red tape that will destroy more jobs and increase energy costs,” Barrasso added.

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