Week ahead: Climate regs back under the microscope

A cornerstone of President Obama’s assault on climate change will be back in the spotlight next week, when senators are set to grill the administration’s top environmental official on plans to impose new limits on power plant emissions.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will appear Wednesday before the Environment and Public Works Committee to defend a draft rule meant to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent.

The rule — perhaps the most contentious of any regulation proposed under the Obama administration — has become a lightning rod ahead of November’s midterm elections.

For Obama, the rule is a critical piece of his push to counter the effects of global warming, a legacy effort he has pursued through regulatory steps in lieu of action from Congress.

For Republicans, the rule is the poster child for Obama’s “war on coal” and a prime example of alleged executive overreach that has spurred Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to prepare a lawsuit against the president.

GOP members of the Senate committee are likely to come at McCarthy with pointed questions about the rules, as Republicans have in a series of House hearings on the EPA’s regulatory policies.

But McCarthy is no stranger to the hot seat, and she’ll get backup from Democratic members of the panel, particularly its chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) a vocal supporter of the climate push.

House Republicans, meanwhile, are preparing to attack the EPA on another front Wednesday, when the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment convenes a hearing promoting states’ rights to regulate the environment as they see fit.

The hearing comes on the heels of the subcommittee’s report on the role of state environmental regulators.

Next week also marks the four-year anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and on Wednesday the House Financial Services Committee will examine the impact of the financial reform regulations.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will also wade into the regulatory debate over the dangers of workers' exposure to coal dust with a hearing looking at the high rate of black lung disease among miners.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) praised the Labor Department's move to cut miners' exposure to coal dust in April, but other Democrats have called for even greater protections.

Tuesday's hearing will look at the legal and medical issues that "stack the deck" against coal workers with black lung disease.

Forthcoming Obama administration regulations on overtime and minimum wage rights will be the subject of a Wednesday hearing before the House Education and the Workforce Committee.


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