House votes to regulate EPA's energy regulations

The legislation is meant to stop EPA rules that Republicans say will hinder economic growth. 

The bill arrives as the EPA is preparing rules including carbon emissions standards for power plants and a measure that would force refiners to further cut the sulfur content of gasoline.

During Wednesday debate, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) noted that the EPA has already completed rules under the Obama administration — such as air toxics standards for power plants and auto emissions standards — that will impose billions of dollars in costs.

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Whitfield said those costs present "serious obstacles" to growth. "So the legislation that we consider tonight is simply a commonsense approach, a way to review the impact of energy-related regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency," said Whitfield, a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The bill could halt or delay upcoming energy-related EPA regulations by handing the Energy Department new powers to prevent them if the DOE believes they would significantly harm the economy.

It would also require the EPA to submit information about its pending rules to Congress when they have a $1 billion impact on the economy.

The legislation fits in with the GOP's ongoing effort to cut back on federal rules that they say have blunted the economic recovery for the last few years. But Democrats said it reflects the GOP's desire to shut down the EPA altogether.

"We have an obligation to our children and future generations to protect our atmosphere while there is still time," House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. "We need to be acting faster, not putting on the brakes to benefit the big polluters."

Democrats tried to strip the bill of language allowing the Energy Department to veto EPA regulations, but the House rejected their amendment.

The House did accept Republican language that would block the EPA from weighing the benefit of curbing carbon emissions when writing its rules.

Like so many deregulation bills the House has passed, the White House has said it would veto this one, arguing that it would require the EPA to run duplicative reviews on its regulations.

But the bill is unlikely to reach President Obama's desk, as the Senate is not expected to consider the bill.

— This post was updated at 4:05 p.m.