EPA, Manchin spar over power plant climate bill

The Environmental Protection Agency is bashing draft legislation by a bipartisan duo of coal country lawmakers that would thwart the EPA’s upcoming carbon emissions standards for coal-fired power plants.

Janet McCabe, the EPA’s top air pollution regulator, says in testimony for a Thursday House hearing that the agency has “serious concerns” with the measure, arguing it would prevent “timely action” to curb power plant emissions.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Trump eyes Cold War statute to keep coal burning: report Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (R-Ky.) are circulating the bill that would greatly soften planned EPA carbon standards for new power plants.

It would also block separate planned rules for existing plants unless Congress votes to let them proceed.

Here’s some of what McCabe will tell the House Energy and Power subcommittee that Whitfield leads Thursday:

The draft bill would repeal the pending proposed carbon pollution standards discussed above, delaying action and regulatory certainty on future power plants. Further, it would require the EPA to base any new carbon standards for future power plants solely on the performance of specified numbers and types of existing power plants. Such a requirement would stifle progress in reducing carbon pollution by discouraging the adoption of innovative technology that is available and effective today – and would limit further development of cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

 She also says the provision that blocks rules for existing plants unless Congress votes to set the effective date would “indefinitely delay” curbing emissions from the power plant sector, the nation’s largest single source of carbon pollution.

The bill would likely clear the House if it comes up for a vote, which Whitfield recently said he expects, but would face big hurdles in the Senate.

Nonetheless, it’s a political rallying point for critics of the EPA, who are battling the regulations.

Manchin, an outspoken critic of the planned EPA rules, will speak in favor of the bill at Thursday’s hearing.

“Our legislation would protect Americans’ access to reliable and affordable electricity now and for decades to come,” his testimony states.

Manchin also knocked EPA “overreach” in remarks at a Wednesday morning energy forum hosted by National Journal.

“EPA regulations are a moving target. I've talked to people in the utility business, and they have had to close down coal plants. They said, 'if we close them down, then we know we don't have to invest in a moving target and worry about pleasing the EPA,' ” he said.

— Laura Barron-Lopez contributed.