The House passed a bill that would handicap the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.
This bill is an effort to rein in what many lawmakers see as an attack on the coal industry.
The Electricity Security and Affordability Act was co-authored by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield. The bill would prevent the EPA from imposing carbon emissions limits that can’t be met by coal-fired power plants with the most efficient emissions control technology. The bill also requires that the EPA report to Congress on the costs of power plant regulations.
Earlier this year, the EPA proposed carbon emissions limits for new power plants. The limits set for coal plants were so low that a new coal plant could only comply with the law if it installs carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology — which is not commercially proven.
“First, the Democrats tried cap and trade,” said California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy on the House floor in support of the Manchin-Whitfield bill. “But that failed in a Democrat-led Congress.”
“Now, this Administration has proposed arguably the most expensive regulation ever by the EPA,” McCarthy added. “One that would render the construction of any future coal power plant impossible through the mandating technology that isn’t readily obtainable.”
The bill’s passage was hailed by the coal industry as a step in the right direction that helps to rein in the EPA’s climate agenda.
“President Obama has made it clear that he will ‘go at it alone’ by wielding executive order without regard for Congressional input or oversight of his administration’s rulemaking process,” said Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. “The Electricity Security and Affordability Act ensures Congress retains its rightful role in creating policy and institutes safeguards to protect American consumers from attacks on affordable, reliable coal-fueled power.”
Environmentalists, on the other hand, have opposed the passage of the Manchin-Whitfield bill, fearing it could kick the legs out from under President Obama’s plan to tackle global warming. Activists have dubbed the bill the “Polluter Protection Act.”
“It is disappointing, though not surprising, that House Republicans have yet again chosen to side with polluters over the health and well-being of their constituents,” said Michael Brune, the director of the Sierra Club. “Yet, in their efforts to shill for the same polluters that are fueling the climate crisis, Rep. Whitfield and his colleagues remain stubbornly opposed to basic, common sense solutions for American families.”
The EPA is set to unveil carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants this June, which could lead to the shuttering of even more coal plants.
“Coal is one of our most abundant and affordable resources, but EPA is acting beyond its legal authority by proposing unworkable regulations that would mean it would be impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in America,” said Whitfield. “These destructive regulations are being pushed through without a public debate about the future of coal in this country, despite the consequences on jobs, energy costs and economic growth.”
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