House passes bill that would limit EPA's uses of Clean Air Act

March 6, 2014

The House voted to pass a bill cosponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) that would limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. Members passed the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, H.R. 3826, in a mostly partisan 229-183 vote; 10 Democrats voted for passage.

The Whitfield-Manchin bill would repeal any greenhouse gas standards EPA develops for power plant emissions and would require congressional approval should it enact regulations targeting the country's existing power plants, Reuters reported.

It is a response to a proposed EPA rule Republicans say would require new coal-fired plants to achieve an emission standard that is virtually impossible using today's widely available technology. Whitfield said that means the rule will effectively ban new power plants.

"In January of next year, it is anticipated that they will finalize a rule from EPA that will make it impossible to build a new coal-powered plant in America," Whitfielld said during debate before the vote. "That is hard to believe that that can be the situation in our great country, particularly since 40 percent of our electricity comes from coal."

Whitfield added that the EPA has not responded to complaints about its proposed rule, which is why legislation is needed. He also stressed it would simply require emission standards to reflect available technology, The Hill reported.

The legislation also requires Congress to set an effective date for coming EPA rules relating to existing power plants. EPA chief Gina McCarthy has said the agency is on track to release a proposed rule on carbon emissions limits for existing plants by June.

Democrats attacked the bill as an attempt to undermine efforts to control carbon emissions from electricity plants, which are a major source of emissions. House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) accused Republicans of belonging to the Flat Earth Society and said the bill would prevent the U.S. from taking steps to reverse climate change.??

The EPA would require new coal-fired power plants to emit less than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (MWh), around the same rate as a plant using natural gas. The Whitfield-Manchin bill would set the standard around an average achieved over a one-year period by at least six of the most efficient coal units located at different commercial power plants around the country.

Manchin told Reuters that carbon capture technology that the EPA is calling for simply is not ready to be rolled out yet.

Manchin told Reuters that despite a series of conversations with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the agency seems unwilling to bend on what he characterized as untenable standards that rely on technology that is not viable for capturing carbon emissions from power plants.

"The bottom line is: Show me something that works," Manchin said in an interview at West Virginia University in Morgantown during a conference on how states reliant on coal-generated power can meet future EPA standards.



Related article search: