Democrats and an Obama administration official lambasted House Republicans Tuesday for a bill that they say could delay carbon limits for power plants for years.
The bill’s opponents argued at a hearing that the bill is irresponsible and would significantly weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rule.
“What this bill will actually do is unnecessarily stall and delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan and also, it will spur countless and, in most cases, frivolous and meritless challenges to the plan in order to extend the ultimate compliance plan,” said Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushIllinois Democrats propose new 'maximized' congressional map Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill Overnight Energy: Democrats tout new report to defend KeystoneXL cancellation MORE (D-Ill.), top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee with authority over the regulations.
“It will effectively give governors veto power of the federal requirements in the Clean Power Plan if they decide that their states don’t want to do this, don’t want to cooperate, don’t want to comply with the plan,” he said.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) called the bill “misguided and unfortunate.”
He said lawmakers “should view this bill for what it really is: an amendment to the Clean Air Act, which would overturn the principle of cooperative federalism that has been in place for more than 40 years.”
That cooperation is “essential to ensure all Americans are protected from environmental harm, even if the actions of their home state fall short,” he said.
Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldBottom Line Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? MORE (R-Ky.) sponsored the bill known as the Ratepayer Protection Act, and Tuesday’s hearing was to examine a draft of the legislation.
He used the hearing to explain the harm the EPA rule will cause and argue that his bill is essential to protect states from it. The rule, which will be finalized this summer, gives each state a carbon reduction target, with the national goal of cutting the power sector’s carbon 30 percent by 2030.
The bill would delay implementation of the rule until all court challenges are exhausted.
“We think you are overstepping your authority,” Whitfield told Janet McCabe, head of the EPA’s air pollution office. “We think you are now legislating. Experts in the Clean Air Act have described this proposed rule as extreme, radical and a power grab.”
He continued, “This unprecedented rule, which will increase electricity rates; affect reliability; cost billions of dollars; make EPA the energy czar for America, will not have a significant impact on climate change.”
McCabe said electric reliability and affordability were among the EPA’s priorities with the rule.
“We’ve devoted significant attention to this issue ourselves and have also made sure that we were working with stakeholders and energy regulators at the federal, state and regional levels to ensure that the important public health and environmental protections Congress has called for are achieved without interfering with the country’s reliable and affordable supply of electricity,” she said.
McCabe called the bill “premature because EPA has not yet finalized the Clean Power Plan, unnecessary because EPA has the tools and indeed the obligation to address cost and reliability issues in our final rule, and ultimately harmful because the bill, if enacted, would delay or prevent the climate and air quality benefits of the Clean Power Plan.”