Senate Dems aim to overturn Trump administration rollback of power plant regs

Senate Dems aim to overturn Trump administration rollback of power plant regs
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats will try to repeal a Trump administration rule that scales back pollution regulations for power plants. 

At issue is the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August as a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

“The Trump administration’s Dirty Power Scam rule, if left in place, would make fighting the climate crisis harder by extending the life of the dirtiest coal plants rather than transition to cleaner sources of energy. By rolling back regulations on carbon pollution, this Trump administration rule ignores the scientific consensus around the climate crisis and instead lets polluters off the hook,” according to a release from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.).

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Democrats say they plan to force a vote on ACE next week when lawmakers return from recess, relying on a seldom-used legal maneuver that requires the signature of just 30 senators.

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to review and overturn rules implemented by the executive branch within 60 days after they have been finalized. The so-called disapproval resolution needs only a majority vote to pass, though Democrats hold just 47 seats in the Senate.

“EPA stands by our ACE rule and looks forward to its full implementation," a spokesman said in an email to The Hill. "It gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to develop diverse and reliable energy portfolios. When ACE is fully implemented, we expect to see U.S. power sector CO2 emissions fall."

Twenty-two states have already sued over the ACE ruled, as have environmental groups who argue the rule does almost nothing to address pollution from power plants.

“What they want is a court ruling that says the best system of emission reduction is limited to these tiny minor tweaks that do nothing, and then the EPA can do nothing going forward to address pollution,” Lissa Lynch, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the parties in the suit, said when the rule was first unveiled. “That’s what the EPA wants.”

At least one Senate Republican has already announced he will vote against the Democrats' measure.

“The ACE rule is a win for my state and our country," Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden MORE (R-N.D.) said in a statement. "If given the opportunity, Senate Democrats would rather we return to the higher electricity bills, reduced grid reliability, and fewer well-paying jobs the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan would have caused."

Updated at 5:43 p.m.