McConnell confronts EPA chief on climate rules

McConnell confronts EPA chief on climate rules

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAssaults on Roe v Wade increasing Trump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push 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 McCarthyGina McCarthyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water Feehery: Biden seems intent on repeating the same mistakes of Jimmy Carter MORE during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subpanel in charge of the EPA’s budget.


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 MurkowskiPollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan Trump drama divides GOP, muddling message 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.