GOP bill delays climate rule, gives states veto

House Republicans are preparing a bill that would delay implementation of the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants and let state governors veto compliance plans.

Rep. Ed WhitfieldEd WhitfieldEPA finalizes stronger methane emission rules ‘It’s a King Kong vs. Godzilla kind of race’ House committee passes pipeline safety bill MORE (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s panel on energy and power, unveiled the draft legislation Monday that he worked on with Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the full committee chairman, and other members.

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The draft bill would delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule until all court challenges are over and let governors block any plans to implement the regulation — whether from the state or imposed by the EPA — if they think it would significantly increase electricity rates or harm reliability.

“This rule is particularly controversial. It’s unprecedented in the power that they’re trying to grab here from the states, and they’re significantly changing the way they are looking at compliance with these [carbon dioxide] regulations in each state,” Whitfield told reporters Monday.

Whitfield said while Republicans want to stop the rule altogether, this plan is more likely to pass.

“This legislation won’t stop it, but it does give courts the opportunity to render a decision,” Whitfield told reporters Monday.

The federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear challenges to the proposed rule next month from a coal company and a dozen states.

Once the rule becomes final, lawmakers and advocates expect more litigation, including arguments at the Supreme Court. Whitfield’s bill would delay the rule until all challenges have been decided. 

The GOP also wants to protect low electricity prices and reliability, Whitfield said.

"For those states where the governor thinks it will have an adverse impact on the ratepayers and the reliability and he or she can just talk to any groups they want to, consult with whoever they want to,” Whitfield said, "if they have a finding that it will have a significant adverse effect on them, then they can get a safe harbor out of having to comply with this state implementation plan and go from there.”

Beyond delaying the rule and stopping rate increases, the bill would accomplish Republicans’ goal of increased transparency for the climate rule, Whitfield added.

“The mere fact that we’re introducing a bill, we’ll have hearings on it, we’ll have markups on it, we’ll have regular order for amendments — we want the American people to be fully aware of the implication that this rule will have on electricity rates, reliability and so forth,” he said.

“We think it’s important to have a full airing of the issue, full transparency, so everybody’s pretty much aware of the impact of what’s going on.”

The rule, which the EPA wants to make final this summer, aims to slash the power sector’s carbon emissions 30 percent in 2030 from 2005 levels.

It is the most significant government action that’s been proposed to fight climate change, but businesses and Republicans say it would cost far too much, and are fighting it tooth and nail.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, welcomed Whitfield’s legislation.

“I appreciate Rep. Whitfield’s continued leadership on addressing the president’s costly climate regulations,” he said. “The discussion draft establishes a sound framework for providing the type of regulatory relief the American people deserve.”

Inhofe said he has worked with House lawmakers on how to fight the EPA rule, and would continue to do so.

Last year, Whitfield and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sponsored legislation that would have allowed Congress to set the implementation timeline for the EPA’s carbon rules. That bill passed the House but did not move in the Senate.

Whitfield’s panel will hold its first hearing on the draft bill April 14. 

— This story was updated at 4:57 p.m.