EPA blasts GOP’s bill to change climate rule

EPA blasts GOP’s bill to change climate rule
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee joined the Environmental Protection Agency Monday in criticizing the House GOP’s efforts to weaken the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said that the legislation that a subcommittee will consider Tuesday would effectively allow states to opt out of the EPA’s rule, while delaying its implementation indefinitely.

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“The legislation is part of an overall plan to stop the EPA from doing its job fighting climate change,” Pallone told reporters Monday. “This has to be seen in the overall context of the Republican leadership continuing to oppose any kind of legislation that addresses the climate change issue.”

Pallone said 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’s (R-Ky.) legislation is simply an extension of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) attempts to encourage states to ignore the rule.

“The Whitfield bill is trying to enact this strategy into law,” he said. “It would automatically delay all compliance dates in the Clean Power Plan for ongoing litigation.”

The Energy and Power subcommittee, which Whitfield chairs, will hold a hearing on his Ratepayer Protection Act Tuesday.

In prepared testimony that the subpanel released late Monday, Janet McCabe, who heads the EPA’s air pollution office, called the bill an “unprecedented interference” into the agency’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act.

“Although members of Congress have routinely expressed concern with EPA's rules and their legality over the years, we are not aware of any instance in the last 25 years when Congress has enacted legislation to stay implementation of an air rule during judicial review,” McCabe said, among other criticisms.

The bill would delay the EPA’s rule until all court challenges are finished. It would also allow state governors to block any compliance plan under the rule for a number of reasons, like a determination that it would increase electricity rates or harm electric grid reliability.

David Doniger, the climate program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), joined Pallone’s news conference to blast the proposal.

“The Whitfield bill … would force us back to the dark days of 50 years ago, back when polluters had a free hand to poison the air, because states were unable or unwilling to protect their citizens,” Doniger said.

He added that anyone suing to stop the regulation could ask a federal court to temporarily bar the EPA from enforcing it, but that only happens in rare cases.