Legal & Regulatory

Senate Votes to Overturn Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Senate late on Nov. 17 passed a pair of resolutions that would overturn recent Environmental Protection Agency rules on power plant emissions, rules that form the core of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The two resolutions, S.J. Res. 23 and S.J. Res. 24, were passed under a little-used provision known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn new regulations within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register. The act allows passage with a simple majority vote and bypasses usual Senate rules on filibusters.

The resolutions passed 52-46, largely along party lines, with three Democrats and three Republicans each breaking ranks. Coal-state Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) all voted in favor, while moderate Republicans Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted against.

The House of Representatives must still pass both resolutions before they go to President Obama, who has vowed to veto them.

“These regulations make it clearer than ever that the President and his Administration have gone too far, and that Congress should act to stop this regulatory assault,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “Here’s what is lost in this Administration’s crusade for ideological purity: the livelihoods of our coal miners and their families. Folks who haven’t done anything to deserve a ‘war’ being declared upon them.”

Coal industry groups, which have repeatedly blasted the Clean Power Plan, hailed the move.

“Leader McConnell and Senator [Shelley Moore] Capito’s stout defense of the everyday Kentuckians, West Virginians and those that depend on affordable and reliable energy nationwide cannot be lauded enough,” said Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. “We look forward to similar House efforts to provide a unified voice in opposition of this illegal rulemaking.”

Proponents of the resolutions acknowledged that the effort is largely symbolic, as they do not have the votes to overturn a presidential veto. However, they argue the actions are intended to send a message to other countries attending the Paris climate talks in two weeks that President Obama does not have the support of Congress in striking a climate deal.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).

SHARE this article