Legal & Regulatory

GOP Lawmakers Aim to Protect Coal and Gas-Fired Power Plants from EPA Rules

Forty-three Republican senators (along with one Independent) introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval on June 5 to overturn emissions rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which they say target existing coal-fired power plants and new gas-fired plants. The action was led by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. In the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) simultaneously led 138 of his colleagues in introducing an identical resolution.

“With this Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval, every member of Congress will have the opportunity to protect America’s energy future, heed the warnings of our nation’s electric grid operators, and adhere to the precedent set by the Supreme Court,” Capito said.

The resolution comes after the EPA simultaneously finalized four major environmental rules covering greenhouse gases (GHG), air toxics, wastewater discharges, and coal combustion residuals from fossil fuel-fired power plants on April 25. Opponents of the GHG rule have dubbed it Clean Power Plan 2.0 in reference to a rule first rolled out during the Obama administration. The Supreme Court overturned the original Clean Power Plan with its decision in the case of West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agency on June 30, 2022.

Republican lawmakers have said the new rules issued by the EPA “impose unrealistic emissions requirements on existing coal-fired power plants and newly constructed gas-fired power plants.” Specifically, the resolution aims to disapprove the EPA’s “New Source Performance Standards for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From New, Modified, and Reconstructed Fossil Fuel-Fired Electric Generating Units; Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Existing Fossil Fuel-Fired Electric Generating Units; and Repeal of the Affordable Clean Energy Rule.”

“The Clean Power Plan 2.0 was created by and for extreme activists, ignoring the real-world harm it will cause to our electric grid and American energy security,” said Balderson. “Slashing our baseload energy production while power demand continues to climb at historic levels is shortsighted and will have a catastrophic impact for Ohioans. This Congressional Review Act resolution allows Congress to step in and reverse the Biden administration’s efforts to practically eliminate our reliable power generation by 2032.”

Many groups reportedly support the CRA resolution, including several coal and mining associations, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and America’s Power (the national trade organization for the U.S. coal fleet and its supply chain). At least two major power companies—American Electric Power (AEP) and Duke Energy—are also said to support the resolution. Notably, the resolution was preceded by more than two dozen states and a handful of trade groups filing separate lawsuits challenging various parts of the rules in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on May 9.

In a statement issued by NRECA following the group’s filing of a lawsuit against the EPA that day, Jim Matheson, the group’s CEO, said: “Reliable electricity is the foundation of the American economy. EPA’s rule recklessly undermines that foundation by forcing the premature closure of power plants that are critical to keeping the lights on—especially as America increasingly relies on electricity to power the economy.”

Likewise, Michelle Bloodworth, CEO of America’s Power, issued a statement on May 25, saying, “EPA’s rule is designed with one purpose in mind: to force the premature retirement of most, if not all, coal-fired power plants in the U.S. The rule would accomplish this goal by offering utilities three no-win compliance options that lead to more coal retirements. These premature retirements are a clear threat to grid reliability, as grid operators have pointed out recently, and to the economic health of the nation’s coal supply chain.”

Concerning the CRA resolution, Capito said, “This vote is an important one because the Biden administration’s Clean Power Plan 2.0 makes it clear it will stand with climate activists, regardless of the harm that is sure to be done to families, workers, and communities across West Virginia and the rest of the country. I appreciate so many of my Senate and House colleagues for joining this bipartisan effort to reject another unrealistic, overreaching regulation, and I look forward to the vote.”

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@POWERmagazine).

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