McConnell Files Resolution to Block EPA Carbon Dioxide Regulations

Published February 13, 2014

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a resolution of disapproval in an effort to block U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to severely restrict carbon dioxide emissions from newly constructed power plants. McConnell is one of at least 40 Republican senators supporting the resolution, and Republicans hope pro-energy Democrats such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia will join to form a majority opposing EPA’s planned restrictions.

EPA Playing Politics with Delay?
For more than two years, EPA made no secret of its plans to restrict power plant carbon dioxide emissions to a level new coal plants cannot meet. Nevertheless, EPA did not formally publish its proposed regulations until January 2014, which initiated a one-year comment period and ensured EPA will not have to render a final decision until after the midterm elections. Many Congressmen say EPA held off formally publishing its proposed regulations so senators and House members who support the restrictions and are up for reelection in 2014 will not have to pay a political price for their support.

“On the one hand, the president says we don’t have time to delay action on global warming,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) on the Senate floor. “But on the other hand, his actions show it is OK to wait to finalize rules that will harm the economy until after the elections so they won’t have an impact on vulnerable Senate Democrats who face voters this fall” in coal-producing states.

Senate Joint Resolution 30 states, “Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to new source performance standards for emissions of carbon dioxide for new affected fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating units (published at 79 Fed. Reg. 1430 (January 8, 2014)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.”

Cruz: Higher Prices, Fewer Jobs
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Environment & Climate News EPA’s proposed restrictions will raise electricity costs and kill American jobs.

“As we struggle in the fifth year of the weak Obama economy, the last thing the American people need is another politically motivated policy that will raise families’ electric bills, hurt manufacturing in the United States, and cost thousands of Americans their jobs,” said Cruz.

Paul: War on Coal Continues
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) agreed, telling Environment & Climate News the proposed regulations continue the Obama administration’s destructive war on coal.

“President Obama and his appointees at the EPA have openly declared a war on coal and affordable energy resources. These job-killing regulations have hurt the hard-working men and women of Kentucky, while simultaneously raising the price of utility bills across America,” Paul explained.

“I am pleased to support SJRES30 as a way to fight the President’s war on Kentucky jobs and will continue to fight his overzealous agenda every step of the way,” Paul added.

Reining in a Rogue Agency
Iain Murray, vice president for strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), said EPA has become too powerful and hostile to law-abiding businesses.

“The EPA is a rogue agency, as was proved when one of its regional bosses had to resign after boasting about crucifying businesses,” said Murray. “Congress has to regain some control over the regulations it has delegated to the agency, and disapproval is currently the best hope of that. Otherwise, the economy will be crucified on the EPA’s cross of green.”

Regulations Stifle Innovation
Peter Boettke, vice president and professor of economics at the Mercatus Center, said top-down EPA regulations are stifling innovation and punishing the economy.

“We don’t necessarily need energy independence, but we need energy innovation, and regulation is a surefire way to kill innovation,” said Boettke.

Too Much Reliance on Natural Gas
Robert Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, worried EPA regulations targeting coal power plants will create an unnecessary overreliance on natural gas.

“Coal is really the one and only market check on natural gas, as determined by power plant owners in a free market. EPA’s CO2 policy is a direct violation of consumer sovereignty in this regard,” said Bradley.

“It is increasingly evident that U.S. EPA has put the policy cart before the science horse,” Bradley added. “At a time when climate-sensitivity estimates are falling, and climate economists are looking at CO2 as a positive, not negative, externality, this resolution has solid intellectual grounding.”

EPA Overstates Carbon Dioxide Harms
Julian Morris, vice president of research at the Reason Foundation, explained EPA’s proposed regulations place an unjustifiably high de facto price on carbon dioxide emissions.

“To be compliant, a new coal-fired power station would have to install carbon capture and storage, at a cost that is currently estimated at around $18 per MWh. That implicitly values the carbon reduction at about $36/ton, which is far higher than many other carbon-reduction strategies.”

D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) is an economist, writer, and speaker. Nelson hails from Brisbane, Australia and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and currently resides in Washington DC. He is a regulation expert with The Heartland Institute.