U.S. Sen. Capito introduces bill to roll back EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 14, 2015

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia’s U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito has introduced legislation aimed at rolling back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.


Capito, a Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, introduced the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act, or ARENA, Wednesday.


Capito said ARENA will ensure reliable and affordable energy, put jobs and the economy first, and curb federal overreach.

“President Obama’s misguided ‘Clean Power Plan’ threatens to drastically reduce coal-related jobs, increase energy prices and reduce reliability,” she said. “After carefully considering the economic and legal implications of this unprecedented proposal, the need for action is clear.


“The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act enables us to fight back against the assault on coal, and the broader threat to affordable, reliable energy nationwide. I am proud to lead the charge against the Clean Power Plan’s sweeping regulations and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to move this very important legislation forward.”


Under the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.


New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.


The agency expects to finalize the rules this summer.


However, under ARENA, before the EPA can set a technology-based standard for new power plants, the standard must first be achieved for at least one year at several separate power facilities throughout the country.


The bill also prevents the EPA from using any demonstration projects -- projects that are reliant on federal support -- from being used to set the standard.


In addition, Capito’s proposed legislation:


- Extends compliance dates: The bill would extend the rule’s compliance dates pending final judicial review, including the dates for submission of state plans;


- Holds the EPA accountable: This bill would require EPA to issue state-specific model plans demonstrating how each state could meet the required GHG emissions reductions under the rule;


- Enables states to protect ratepayers: The bill would provide that no state shall be required to implement a state or federal plan that the state’s governor determines would negatively impact economic growth, negatively impact the reliability of the electricity system or negatively impact electricity ratepayers; and


- Protects highway fund dollars: The bill would prevent the EPA from withholding highway funds from any states for noncompliance with the Clean Power Plan.


ARENA also would require the federal agency to submit to Congress a report describing the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions the Clean Power Plan is expected to reduce, and to conduct modeling to show the impacts of the rule on the climate indicators used to develop the rule.


The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas; Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D.; Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; and Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Dan Coats, R-Ind.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; John Boozman, R-Ark.; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Tom Tillis, R-N.C.; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; and Bill Cassidy, R-La.


“I applaud Sen. Capito for introducing legislation that would allow states to better protect middle class families from the ramifications of the Obama Administration’s regressive, and likely illegal, energy regulations,” McConnell said.


“This bill, which further highlights a ‘way out’ for states from these massive new regulations that seem more motivated by ideology than science -- regulations that could negatively impact their economy and hurt both the cost and reliability of energy for their citizens -- effectively reiterates the message I relayed in a letter to our nation’s governors in March.”


Manchin, West Virginia’s senior U.S. senator, said the EPA’s carbon emissions rule jeopardizes both the reliability and affordability of Americans’ electricity.


“The agency’s regulations will threaten the stability of our electric grid, low electricity prices, countless jobs in the energy, production and manufacturing sectors, and the American economy. That is simply unacceptable,” he said. “The EPA cannot place unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards that will undoubtedly strangle energy production.


“This legislation will ensure that the EPA’s regulations are based on demonstrated technology that is commercially available across the United States, which strikes the proper balance between our environment and our economy.”


To view the bill, click here.


West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who testified last week before a Senate subcommittee, applauded Capito’s efforts.


“This legislation is another critical tool to stop federal overreach that will inflict real harms on the states, their citizens and taxpayers, regardless of whether they live in an energy-producing state like West Virginia or not,” Morrisey said in a statement.


“As we have argued in court, and testified to in the U.S. Senate, the EPA is illegally regulating coal-fired power plants and going much further than permitted under the Clean Air Act.”


Morrisey said, if passed, ARENA will prohibit the EPA from implementing its final emissions rules on existing power plants until courts can make a decision on our lawsuit and others.


“States should not be forced to invest in and move forward on the EPA’s edict while those very rules are being argued in court,” he said.


Morrisey is leading a group of 15 states who are suing the federal agency over its “illegal and onerous” regulations.


The EPA, in a statement released in response to Capito’s bill, noted that power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.


However, there are no national standards to address the pollution, said Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for the agency.


“Climate change is one of the greatest threats of our time,” she said in a statement late Wednesday. “Scientists, faith leaders, mayors, insurance companies, parents, engineers, military leaders, and business owners all recognize the health and environmental dangers posed by climate change.”


The EPA argues that its plan, called for by President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, is built on “a time-tested state-federal partnership in the Clean Air Act, which was established by Congress decades ago.”


“The plan will be affordable, will drive American innovation and American jobs, and will demonstrate our leadership in the international community,” Purchia said, noting that the agency has been reaching out and engaging with a “wide range” of stakeholders.


It received 4.3 million comments during the public comment period, she added.


“In the EPA’s nearly 45-year history, emissions from power plant pollution have decreased dramatically, improving public health protection for all Americans, while the economy has grown,” she said. “The EPA’s plan will not change that.”


Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law organization, described Capito’s legislation as “poisonous.”


“This bill is yet another misleading attempt to trick families across our country into believing that Big Coal has their best interests at heart,” said Marty Hayden, vice president of policy and legislation for the organization.


“The decline of coal is a reality -- not because of environmental safeguards, but because of decreased demand for coal and low natural gas prices that are outcompeting it. In addition, investors see the writing on the wall in terms of coal’s future in the face of climate change.”


He continued, “The sooner we start discussing common sense solutions to climate change instead of doing the bidding of the National Mining Association, the better off all of our families will be.”


Hayden said among the “poison pills” in Capito’s bill is a provision that would essentially allow the mere filing of litigation by polluters and other opponents of the EPA’s plan to indefinitely delay its implementation.


“There is overwhelming evidence to show that the Clean Power Plan can spur innovation and new jobs, strengthen the reliability of our electrical grid and protect the health of our families and communities, if Congress is willing to give it a chance,” he said.


From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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