Congressional Republicans Attempt to Delay, Defang Clean Power Plan

Published August 10, 2015

U.S. Senate and House Republicans are attempting to delay or render moot the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is expected to be finalized in August.

            On June 24, the U.S. House voted 247 to 180 to give governors the ability to opt out of writing state plans implementing CPP if they determine doing so would increase electricity costs, reduce electricity reliability, or harm important economic sectors of their economies. It also blocks EPA’s ability to enforce CPP until all court challenges are complete.

            Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced a Senate bill similar to the one passed in the House. This bill would offer governors even more reasons they could cite in rejecting state compliance.

            Whether CPP will be able to withstand judicial review remains in question.

            The Senate legislation would also reinterpret the Clean Air Act to make it extremely difficult for the agency to regulate power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions.

            Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, questions whether the House and Senate would be able to override a presidential veto.

            “While the House and Senate bills are good efforts, this Republican Congress has not demonstrated any ability to assert their agenda on issues like this,” Simmons said. 

Veto Likely

President Barack Obama has already threatened to veto any bill attempting to block Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules.

            “President Obama has made reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and thereby killing the coal industry, driving manufacturing jobs abroad, and raising people’s electric bills in the heartland states, one of the main goals of his second term,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Therefore, the president is almost certain to veto any bill to block EPA’s regulations that the House and Senate send to him.”

            “The biggest problem is President Obama will veto any decent piece of legislation that rolls back any of his energy agenda,” said Simmons.

            EPA proposed the CPP in June 2014, aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Regulators will give states 13 months to draft their own state plans to comply with the rule. EPA will impose its plan on any state not developing its own plan.

Despite Veto, Benefits Remain

Even if a veto is likely, there are several reasons why a bill passed in the Senate and House would be beneficial, Ebell says.

            “First, it sends a clear signal to foreign countries that the Obama administration’s official commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions submitted to the Paris Accord, the forthcoming climate treaty scheduled to be signed in December, is opposed by Congress,” Ebell said.

            “Second, the federal judges considering lawsuits to overturn the regulations will know Congress has decided EPA has exceeded its authority,” said Ebell.

            “Third, and most importantly, floor votes in favor of blocking the power plant regulations will provide strong support for including similar provisions in the omnibus spending bill that Congress will consider this fall to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2016,” Ebell said. “Obama could veto the omnibus spending bill as well, but he will then have to explain to the American people why he is shutting down the government in order to preserve regulations that will increase electricity prices and destroy jobs.”

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.