GOP debate: Romney avoids stance on EPA air pollution rule

All the GOP White House candidates have made EPA a punching bag, but things can get trickier when it comes to specific policies.

On Sunday frontrunner Mitt Romney avoided saying whether he backs a major new EPA rule to limit power plant pollution that blows eastward across states lines, but also noted that he backs the goal of the regulation.

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“I am not familiar with the specific regulation as it applies to New Hampshire, but I do believe we have a responsibility to keep the air clean and we have to find ways to ensure that we don’t have the pollution of one state overwhelming the ability of another state to have clean air,” Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said Sunday morning during the Facebook/NBC News debate ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Romney made the comment when asked whether EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule represents "fair regulation" or "overregulation." The rule finalized last year mandates new limits on power plant emissions that generate smog and particulate pollution in the eastern half of the country.


It has come under attack from many Republicans, and the House voted last year to scuttle the measure. But separate plans to kill the rule failed in the Senate in November, when lawmakers thwarted Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) resolution to overturn the regulation.

The six Republicans who opposed Paul’s plan included four from New England: Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Romney, on Sunday, used the question about the rule to tout his support for the continued expansion of U.S. natural gas production.

“If we want to help people in New England have not only homes and businesses that emit less pollutants into the air, and therefore we would have cleaner air and also have lower-cost energy, let’s build out this natural gas system so that we can take advantage of that new, enormous source of American economic strength,” Romney said.