In a symbolic move, the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday evening passed a pair of joint resolutions aimed at derailing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP), but both measures are expected to be vetoed.
The first joint resolution -- S.J. Res. 24, sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) -- states that Congress disapproves of a rule submitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding carbon emissions from existing power plants.
The Senate then passed a second joint resolution, S.J. Res. 23. Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the measure states that Congress disapproves of another EPA rule, this one governing greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified or reconstructed power plants.
Both measures passed on 52-46 votes, along mostly partisan lines. Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted in favor of both resolutions, while Republicans Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) broke ranks and voted against them.
"If the administration's proposed CPP moves forward, hardship will be felt all across the country [through] fewer job opportunities, higher power bills and less reliable electricity," Capito said on the Senate floor Tuesday, adding that the CPP amounted to a "war on coal."
"The CPP is the most expensive environmental regulation that the EPA has ever proposed on our nation's power sector," Capito said. "Compliance spending is estimated to total between $29 billion and $39 billion per year."
Heitkamp added, "We have created an incredible level of uncertainty for utility companies in this country. We have one agency of the federal government, not empowered by any law, basically controlling our electrical deployment. We've ignored FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] and all the other agencies that are responsible for the transmission of electricity."
But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) disagreed, and she blasted McConnell for bringing the resolutions to the floor, rather than more pressing legislation, such as the federal budget. "Why the majority leader and my [Democratic] friends would push for the overturning of a CPP rule...I don't know why they would take that stand. I really don't."
Fifteen states -- led by West Virginia and including several oil and gas heavyweights -- have filed an emergency petition in federal court, urging it to postpone the deadlines set forth in the CPP (see Daily GPI, Aug. 14). Although the EPA first proposed the CPP in June 2014, it didn't unveil the final version of the rule until last August (see Daily GPI, Aug. 3; June 2, 2014).
President Obama has since taken a series of executive actions to move the nation toward wider use of renewables and distributed energy (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25). He also recently rejected the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline (see Shale Daily, Nov. 6).