Anti-greenhouse gas control bill clears a House Energy subcommittee

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Jan 14 advanced H.R. 3826, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, which would call a screeching halt to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The bill was authored by two coal-state lawmakers: subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. “The bipartisan, bicameral legislation provides a reasonable alternative to EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants and the agency’s planned regulations for existing power plants,” said a Jan. 14 statement from the energy committee’s GOP majority. “The subcommittee approved the measure by a vote of 18 to 11 and it now moves to the full committee for consideration.”

EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants would require the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that are not yet commercially available, effectively banning the construction of even the most state-of-the-art coal-fired plants, the GOP statement said. EPA claimed in a new version of its proposed rule released on Jan. 8 that CCS technologies are commercially proven, a contention that is hotly contested by the power industry.

Said Whitfield on that point in his Jan. 14 opening statement: “Under EPA’s proposal, industry would not even be able to build the most state of the art clean coal fired power plant, because the technology required under the proposed regulation is not commercially feasible. EPA testified before our subcommittee that the proposal is based on four demonstration projects – all of which rely heavily on government subsidies and it remains unclear when or if all of these projects will go forward. In fact, there is not one full-scale commercial power plant with CCS in operation anywhere in the world today.”  

H.R. 3826 would direct EPA to adopt workable standards that require technologies that have been adequately demonstrated and are commercially feasible. It would also instruct Congress to set the effective date for EPA’s expected regulations for existing plants, which, considering the logjam in Congress on greenhouse gas regulation, would put EPA’s rulemaking efforts on ice for potentially years to come.

“Under EPA’s proposal, industry would not even be able to build the most state of the art clean coal fired power plant, because the technology required under the proposed regulation is not commercially feasible,” said Whitfield. “This legislation allows for us to bring these proposed regulations to the forefront and have a public debate about the effect that they will have on jobs, energy costs, and economic growth. Ultimately, I believe that the consequences of these regulations will directly affect consumers, whether a family or a business, in the form of higher electricity costs. Americans deserve energy that is affordable and reliable. We need to keep a diverse energy portfolio, one that is truly all-of-the-above.”

“I applaud both Chairman Whitfield and Senator Manchin for their bipartisan and bicameral bill. The Electricity Security and Affordability Act is a reasonable approach,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. “It would allow EPA to develop regulations to reduce emissions in a manner that is reasonable and achievable, and protects jobs and the economy.”

This bill seems likely for passage in the Republican-controlled House, and might stand a chance in the Democratic-majority Senate if it can peal off a few coal-state Democrats like Manchin. But then there is the likelihood of a presidential veto.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., in his opening statement at the Jan. 14 session, said this is just another Republican effort to go against proven science when it comes to making policy, including energy policy. “Denying or ignoring the science is not a responsible way to govern,” he said. “Passing the bill before us today is not a responsible way to act. It will only jeopardize the future for our children and grandchildren. Don’t be so myopic that you look only at the coal industry in your district and play to the cheap seats and tell them how you’re saving them from the war on coal. There is no war on coal. But there is a problem, and we’ve got to solve the problem, not deny it.”

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.