W.Va. Democrat joins Inhofe’s Senate fight against Utility MACT rule

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said June 12 that he supports an upcoming vote on a Congressional Joint Resolution of Disapproval that would stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward with a new rule that hurts jobs in coal-dependent West Virginia and around the country. 

The EPA’s new Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule, also known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), was finalized in December and would require power plants to comply within what Manchin, a former coal marketer and West Virginia governor, called an unrealistic timeframe. The consequences of the rule include thousands of lost jobs, an unstable electric grid and skyrocketing utility prices for families and businesses, he said. 

“From the day I arrived in the Senate, I have been determined to stop the EPA’s jobs-killing agenda, and this Resolution of Disapproval takes an important step to rein in this out-of-control agency,” Manchin said. “The EPA needs to be our ally, not our adversary, and work with states like West Virginia that can produce domestic resources to make this country less dependent on foreign energy and more secure as a nation. I’m very hopeful that in the coming weeks we will finally be able come together across the aisle to bring a balance to our environment and economy – and develop a true comprehensive energy policy.” 

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., filed the Resolution of Disapproval (S.J. Res. 37) under the Congressional Review Act and thanked Manchin in a speech on the Senate floor for his support for the measure. Manchin was presiding at the time that Inhofe delivered his remarks. 

“A growing number of elected officials are working across the aisle to save coal and the first Senate Democrats are beginning to come aboard. I want to commend Senator Joe Manchin, who happens to be occupying the chair at this time,” Inhofe said in the floor speech.

The Congressional website shows that this resolution was filed on Feb. 16 and is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Inhofe is the ranking minority member on that committee.

Inhofe slams effort by others to offer ‘cover’ bill

Inhofe said in a June 12 statement that his efforts have grown so much that Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas found it necessary to introduce a cover bill for those senators who need to appear to be reining in the EPA for their constituents back home, but in reality are allowing President Obama to continue to “kill coal.” Alexander and Pryor are expected to introduce their cover bill as soon as June 13, but it is unlikely that it would pass, Inhofe said. While Inhofe’s resolution would require a simple majority of the members present, the cover bill by Alexander and Pryor would require 60 votes to pass.

“While my resolution requires that EPA go back to the drawing board to craft a rule in which utilities can actually comply, the measure that Senators Alexander and Pryor are offering would keep Utility MACT in place but would delay the rule for six years,” Inhofe’s said in his prepared floor speech. “This alternative is a clear admission that the Obama-EPA’s policy is wrong – but it does not fix the problem; it simply puts off the day of execution for a few more years.”

He added: “We’ve seen this before. Remember when the Upton-Inhofe Energy Tax Prevention Act came to the floor last year – a measure that would have prevented the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act – my colleagues offered a number of counter amendments so they could have a cover vote. They wanted to appear to be reining in an out-of-control EPA for their constituents back home, all while letting President Obama go through with his job-killing regulations. Some chose to vote for the only real solution to the problem – the Energy Tax Prevention Act – and some chose the cover vote, but all in all, 64 Senators went on record that day as wanting to rein in EPA. Now the same thing is happening with our Utility MACT vote. Of course, it’s highly unlikely this Utility MACT alternative by Senators Alexander and Pryor will ever get a vote – but that’s not the point; the point is just to have something out there that Democrats in a tough spot can claim to support.”

Inhofe commended Manchin and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska for being the first of the Senate Democrats to come out publicly in support of his resolution. Manchin’s announcement came just after the Democratic governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, sent a letter asking him, as well as West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, to vote for the Inhofe resolution, Inhofe noted.

“That’s not all: a group of bipartisan state legislators also wrote the Senators urging them to support SJR 37 out of concern for the devastating impacts on West Virginia,” said the prepared Inhofe speech. “Additional, it is projected that with the implementation of this rule, consumer electric rates will rise substantially,” Inhofe said.

Labor too, has come out to stop the rule, Inhofe said. Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers union – one of the biggest labor unions in the country and an Obama supporter in 2008 – recently sent a letter to several senators saying that union’s support for Inhofe’s resolution is “based upon our assessment of the threat that the EPA MATS rule poses to United Mine Workers Association members’ jobs, the economies of coal field communities, and the future direction of our national energy policy.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.