GOP Measure Would Allow StatesTo Opt Out of EPA Power-Plant RULE

Washinton Examiner BY ZACK COLMAN | MARCH 24, 2015 | 12:40 PM

“We’re hoping for a vote this week, but nothing is locked in,” Portman spokeswoman Caitlin…

Senate Republicans are pushing a budget amendment that would allow states to opt out of a proposed emissions rule for existing power plants.

Under the measure from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, which was filed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., state governors or legislatures could choose not to comply with the proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation if they determine the policy would cause economic harm to low or fixed-income families, introduce electric reliability problems and a handful of other reasons.

“Yes, it allows states to opt out without standing in the way of states that want to participate. We’re hoping for a vote this week, but nothing is locked in,” Portman spokeswoman Caitlin Conant told the Washington Examiner in an email.

The power plant rule looks to curb electricity emissions 30 percent by 2030 and is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda. He would likely reject legislation that undercuts the rule, and Democrats also could thwart the move.

The move from McConnell is an outgrowth of his strategy to convince states against complying with the rule, which is due to be finalized by mid-summer. The tactic underscores the tough road McConnell and the rule’s opponents face nixing the regulation in Congress.

Opponents of the EPA rule, chiefly industry groups and Republicans, say the agency has dubious legal authority to call on renewable electricity adoption and improvements in customer energy efficiency. Meeting the 30-percent emissions reduction target by relying on two of the other main avenues for cuts — converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas and improving the efficiency of power plants — would likely be impossible.

McConnell’s office did not return a request for comment as to whether that approach would shield states from potential punitive action from the EPA for not complying with the rule.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can impose a federal plan on the states, withdraw highway funds and make it harder to secure permits to expand industrial facilities if states refuse to cooperate.

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