Much Ado About Clean Power Plan Vote

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two joint resolutions on Dec. 1 designed to nullify the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan.

The House votes come just two weeks after the Senate passed both resolutions on Nov. 17. Senate Joint Res. 23—sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—provides for congressional disapproval of an EPA rule relating to “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.” Senate Joint Res. 24—sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)—provides for congressional disapproval of the EPA’s rule relating to “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.”

The resolutions are largely symbolic, however, because President Obama has vowed to veto both resolutions and Republican members of Congress—who are the main proponents of the action—do not have enough votes to override the veto. Nevertheless, congressional passage of the resolutions comes during the Paris Climate Conference, sending a signal to nations around the world that political support for action on climate change is a bit shaky in the U.S.

“Sending these resolutions to the president’s desk is an important step in the fight against the harmful Clean Power Plan, and shows that any international climate deal reached in Paris will be met with skepticism here at home. World leaders should be cautious about entering into a deal with an administration whose misguided policies lack the backing of a bipartisan majority in Congress,” Capito said.

David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, suggested that dealing with one of the most important environmental challenges facing the world today is being hindered by politics.

“With nearly 200 countries meeting in Paris to mount an historic global effort to combat climate change, these votes underscore just how much the Republican Party has isolated itself from international and domestic public opinion,” Doniger said. “Protecting our health, our planet and the future of all our children should not be a partisan issue.”

But House Subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) suggested that the real goal is keeping electricity affordable and reliable for ratepayers across the country.

“Both of these measures pose a serious risk to the nation’s electricity system and any person or business that has to pay an electric bill should be very concerned. Unilateral EPA micromanagement of electricity generation as embodied in these rules is a recipe for higher prices, reduced reliability, and job losses that are well out of proportion to any climate benefits,” Whitfield said.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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