Inhofe to force vote on killing EPA's power plant mercury rule

Inhofe filed a resolution to nix the rule under a mid-1990s law called the Congressional Review Act that allows Congress to upend federal regulations, but has been used successfully just once.

The law provides a relatively strong assurance of a vote in the process-heavy upper chamber.

It's not certain when a vote will occur — an Inhofe aide expects one this spring —  and Inhofe must first collect colleagues’ signatures to send the resolution before the full Senate.

Inhofe and many other Republicans say the “maximum achievable control technology” standards rolled out late last year will kill jobs and, in concert with other recent EPA emissions rules, jeopardize power grid reliability.

The House, with support from 19 Democrats, voted to indefinitely delay the EPA’s mercury rules (and force a re-write) last year as part of a broader bill aimed at curbing EPA’s regulatory reach.

“It's time for the Senate to do its job and stop this regulatory nightmare,” Inhofe said.

But EPA officials say the power plant rules have enough flexibility to address reliability concerns, and advocates of the emissions regulations point to reports from the Congressional Research Service and the Energy Department to back them up.

EPA estimates that the air toxics standards will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma per year.

The agency has also pushed back on claims that the rules will scuttle jobs, instead arguing that requiring plants to install pollution controls will help create employment. EPA estimates that rules will create tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs and 8,000 permanent utility jobs.

An Inhofe aide said the senator is expecting support from some Democrats for his resolution, which cannot be filibustered.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has introduced legislation that would delay compliance with the regulations. But while coal-state Democrats are wary of EPA’s rules, Inhofe will face an uphill battle passing his resolution because it would outright kill — rather than modify or delay — the rules to curb toxic emissions.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) fell well short of the needed votes last November when he used the Congressional Review Act to try and upend a separate set of EPA power plant rules.