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House votes to delay EPA air pollution rules for brickmakers, wood heaters

House votes to delay EPA air pollution rules for brickmakers, wood heaters
© Greg Nash

The House voted Wednesday to delay air pollution rules that the Obama administration had written for brickmakers and residential wood-burning heaters.

Lawmakers voted 234-180, mainly along party lines, to pass the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Jason Smith set to serve as top Republican on House Budget Committee OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report | Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide | California investigators seize PG&E equipment MORE (R-Ohio), would push off compliance with the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule for brick and tile kilns until ongoing litigation from the industry is resolved.

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House leaders also attached provisions to push off emissions standards for residential wood-fired heaters by three years to 2023.

It’s the latest in a long string of actions by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to repeal, weaken or delay the Obama administration’s aggressive environmental agenda.

The GOP said the delays are justified. Brick kilns should not have to comply with a rule that might be overturned in court, while wood heater makers and users need more time to meet stringent new rules, Republicans argued.

Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusGrowing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (R-Ill.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee, said on the House floor that the brick industry “should not be forced to comply with another new regulation that may not withstand judicial scrutiny.”

“We owe it to these brickmakers, their employees and consumers of building materials to allow meaningful judicial review,” he said.

Wood heater makers and users, meanwhile, are unprepared for the 2020 deadline for the new pollution rules, Shimkus said.

“Users of wood heaters face both reduced product choice and higher prices for new models,” he argued. “This is a reasonable fix that would avoid unnecessary damage while still prioritizing environmental protection.”

Democrats said the regulations at issue are reasonable, and delaying them would unnecessarily contribute to increases in pollutants like mercury and particulate matter.

“Courts already have the ability to issue a stay of any compliance dates in a final rule. Congress should not insert itself into the judicial process,” Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race MORE (N.Y.), the environment panel’s top Democrat, said of the brick rule.

“The BRICK Act gives special treatment to a couple of industries by shifting the health and financial burdens of pollution onto the public,” he said.

The EPA has separately committed to reviewing the brick kiln rule for potential changes. It plans to decide by September whether to seek any changes.

Lawmakers plan to vote Thursday on another piece of legislation to change an Obama-era EPA rule. That bill, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment Act, would subject power plants that burn coal waste to lower emissions standards than they are currently expected to meet.