WV's U.S. Sens. Capito, Manchin join proposal to roll back EPA's Clean Power Plan

A coalition of six U.S. Senators has unveiled legislation to roll back the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced The Affordable Reliable Energy Now (ARENA) Act May 13, which is meant to “ensure reliable and affordable energy, put jobs and our economy first, and curb federal overreach.”

The measure would extend Clean Power Plan compliance dates, require EPA to issue state-specific model compliance plans, enable states to choose not to implement a plan that the state's governor determines would negatively impact the state's economy and prevent the EPA from withholding highway funds from any states for noncompliance with the plan. 

“President Obama's misguided ‘Clean Power Plan' threatens to drastically reduce coal-related jobs, increase energy prices and reduce reliability,” Capito, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, said in a statement. “The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act enables us to fight back against the assault on coal, and the broader threat to affordable, reliable energy nationwide."

The bill also proposes that technology-based standards must first be achieved for at least one year at several separate power facilities throughout the country before the EPA can set the standard for new power plants. 

"The president's Clean Power Plan has gone forward requiring technologies that are not provable in the in the commercial space without heavy government subsidies," Capito told reporters in a conference call. 

The Clean Power Plan, proposed in June 2014, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The rule is expected to be finalized by mid-summer.

In response to the legislation, the EPA noted the importance cutting carbon emissions from power plants to fight the environmental and health threats posed by climate change.

"EPA continues to work toward completing the proposed Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from power plants," said EPA Spokeswoman Liz Purchia. "The agency's plan, called for by President Obama's Climate Action Plan, is built on a time-tested state-federal partnership in the Clean Air Act, which was established by Congress decades ago, for EPA to establish public health goals and then gives states important flexibility to design plans to meet their individual and unique needs. 

"The plan will be affordable, will drive American innovation and American jobs, and will demonstrate our leadership in the international community."

The EPA is currently considering the 4.3 million comments that were submitted on the proposal during the public comment period, Purchia said. 

"In the EPA's nearly 45-year history, emissions from power plant pollution have decreased dramatically, improving public health protection for all Americans, while the economy has grown," she added. "EPA's plan will not change that."

But Capito said bill backers are asking for "common sense" and "reasonable assurances."

"We're always trying to reach a balance between economy and environment," she said.

The legislation is also backed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The senators' action follows a multi-state effort to challenge the legality of the plan, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Following the May 13 announcement, Morrisey released a statement applauding the senators.

"This legislation is another critical tool to stop federal overreach that will inflict real harms on the states, their citizens and taxpayers, regardless of whether they live in an energy-producing state like West Virginia or not,” Morrisey stated. “As we have argued in court, and testified to in the U.S. Senate, the EPA is illegally regulating coal-fired power plants and going much further than permitted under the Clean Air Act.

"ARENA, if passed, will prohibit the EPA from implementing its final emissions rules on existing power plants until courts can make a decision on our lawsuit and others,” he added. “States should not be forced to invest in and move forward on the EPA's edict while those very rules are being argued in court.”

By:  Sarah Tincher
Source: State Journal