McConnell confronts EPA chief on climate rules

McConnell confronts EPA chief on climate rules

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage MORE (R-Ky.) took advantage of a rare opportunity Wednesday to attack the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over her agency's main climate change rule.

McConnell grilled Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Overnight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule MORE during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subpanel in charge of the EPA’s budget.

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McConnell is one of the Senate's most vocal opponents of the EPA’s carbon limits for power plants. He argues the rules would destroy Kentucky’s coal sector, which he called a “treasure.”

“My constituents want their dignity restored, they want to be able to work, they want to be able to provide for their families,” McConnell said after Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America MORE (R-Alaska), the panel’s chairwoman, let him have the first round of questions.

“You cannot guarantee your carbon regulations won’t cost my constituents jobs,” he said. “You cannot guarantee your carbon regulations won’t raise their utility bills.”

The EPA’s climate rule has been one of McConnell’s top targets as leader of the Senate. He pledged the day after last year’s election that he would make it a top priority to “get the EPA reined in.”

Since then, McConnell has focused instead on trying to convince states not to comply with the rule. Working with the EPA, he argued, would help a regulation that he says is illegal and would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs.

That strategy has been criticized by Democrats, McCarthy and others who say that the EPA will write its own compliance plans for states if they do not.

McConnell castigated McCarthy for her refusal to come to Kentucky for a public hearing on the carbon limits, which aim to slash the power sector’s carbon dioxide output 30 percent by 2030.

He also said that although the EPA is working with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) to help the state write a plan to comply with the climate rule, Beshear will leave office in December, and all gubernatorial candidates have promised not to cooperate with the agency.

“How in the world do you intend to force my state to comply with a federal plan? What are you going to require Kentucky to do?” he said.

McCarthy defended her agency’s rules and the EPA’s cooperation with states.

“I believe that EPA has designed this plan in a way that we are respecting the current situation in states and their energy mixes, designing our standards to accommodate the reasonable benefits in terms of reducing carbon pollution, and what those states can do,” she said, adding that the rule is extremely flexible for states.

“I am more than happy to take comments and to work with any governor of any state at any time whether they’re here or governing in the future.”

McConnell boasted in February about putting himself on the EPA spending panel, saying it would help him “continue to fight back against this administration’s anti-coal jobs regulations on behalf of the Kentuckians I represent in the U.S. Senate.”

At the hearing, McConnell presented a new legal argument against the rule to McCarthy.

He said that under the Clean Air Act, any multi-state agreements to comply with the climate rule would need congressional approval, which he pledged to block.

McCarthy responded that the rule is on firm legal ground.

“I believe that we are acting under the authority that Congress gave us under the Clean Air Act and we are going to be producing a rule that is going to withstand the test of time in the courts,” she said.

The EPA is planning to make the regulation final this summer and require states to submit plans just over a year later.

— This story was updated at 4:40 p.m.