On October 28th, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Republican House Representative Ed Whitfield (Ky.) released a discussion draft bill intended to limit the EPA’s ability to set greenhouse gas emission standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants. The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that Rep. Whitfield chairs will hold a legislative hearing on the discussion draft on November 14th and hopes to finish consideration of the bill before this session of Congress concludes. Rep. Whitfield said that Janet McCabe, who heads the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, is scheduled to testify at that hearing. Sen. Manchin also stated that he believes that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider the bill as well, but he has not yet asked the committee for a hearing.
The draft bill provides that the EPA may not issue or enforce any new legislation under the “Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources” section of the Clean Air Act unless the EPA establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal-based power plants, sets emission standards that have been proven at six different commercial plants for at least a year, and creates a separate standard for lignite coal. Also, Congress is to set the effective date for standards of performance for existing, modified, and restructured fossil fuel-fired power plants. Further, the EPA would be required to submit to Congress a report containing the proposed rule, the economic impacts of the rule, and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that the rule is projected to reduce. Finally, the draft bill calls for the repeal of some earlier proposed rules regarding greenhouse gas emissions from such power plants.
As background, this draft bill came after the EPA unveiled its proposed new source performance standards for future power plants on September 20th and had begun soliciting input as it prepares standards for existing power plants. In the meantime, multiple members of Congress, including Rep. Whitfield, have stated that the EPA’s proposed regulations would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and negatively impact the economies of coal-producing regions across the Unites States.
On October 29th, at a rally for American Energy Jobs, Democratic and Republican members of Congress collectively voiced their concern that overregulation from the EPA is crippling the economy of coal states. At the rally, Sen. Manchin promised to advance the discussion draft bill, which would limit the EPA’s ability to set standards relating to coal-based power plants. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) also has stated that he will do everything possible to stop the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions standards for power plants, stating that “we’re going to stop this war on coal.” However, some members of Congress have expressed that the EPA is being used as a scapegoat, when the true struggles of the coal industry are due to the rise of cheap natural gas. As Democratic House Representative Henry Waxman (Ca.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has stated:“This isn’t something the government did. This is something the market dictated.”