Resolution to stop EPA mercury rule rejected by US Senate

June 21, 2012

Senate Joint Resolution 37, which would have nullified federal regulations that require coal and other fossil fuel fired power plants to strap on pollution controls to reduce mercury and other hazardous air pollutants was defeated by the U.S. Senate.

Proponents argue the resolution would crush the economy while opponents countered that many utilities already cleaned up units without financial harm, Platts reported.

In the vote on Senate Joint Resolution 37, offered by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), 46 senators voted to proceed with the resolution but 53 voted against it.

Had the resolution cleared the Senate and the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, President Barack Obama would have likely vetoed the measure as he has named reduction of mercury emissions a priority of his administration.

“Today’s regrettable vote locks in higher electricity rates for consumers and businesses for the foreseeable future,” Hal Quinn, president and chief executive officer of the National Mining Association said. “t’s unfortunate that a number of senators from states whose economies rely on affordable, coal-based electricity could not see their way to supporting their communities and the nation’s economic growth at a time when the need is greatest.”

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, coal- and oil-fired generating units must install and operate “maximum achievable control technology,” or MACT, by 2015 to prevent 90 percent of the sector’s mercury emissions. The rule also reduces several other air toxins. The rule stems from provisions under the 1990 Clean Air Act reported Platts.

Half the country's energy companies already have strapped on the necessary pollution equipment without economic hardship, said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, (D - CA).

Inhofe, the committee’s senior Republican, told his colleagues “by voting against the resolution, you are effectively killing coal.”

Yet at least two other coal-state senators who opposed Inhofe’s resolutions — Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — plan to seek an alternative bill to provide the power sector a total of six years, or until 2018, to meet the MATS rule.

“We need clean coal,” said Pryor. “We have 400 years’ worth of coal in this country. We have technology to take 90 percent of the mercury out. This is a rule that has been 20 years in the making, that Congress has mandated that we do this. We should not have to make ourselves a false choice here.”



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