House panel passes bill to put Clean Power Plan on the shelf until the courts can speak

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 29 approved H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, by a vote of 28 to 22.

The legislation, introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., would stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing its 111(d) rule (known as the Clean Power Plan) for existing power plants. This plan, unveiled by EPA last June and due to be put out in final form this summer, would cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030 from existing power plants. Critics say the 2020 interim deadline alone will cause the shutdown of thousands of MWs of coal-fired capacity.

The Ratepayer Protection Act requires judicial review of the rule to be completed before states are compelled to comply. Litigation, which has already started over the draft version of the Clean Power Plan, would likely take years to resolve. The bill also provides a safe harbor for states, ensuring that no state will be forced to implement a state or federal plan if the governor finds it would significantly harm energy affordability or reliability.

“I thank my colleagues for joining me in support of this practical solution to protect ratepayers from EPA’s unprecedented 111(d) rule. This bill does not repeal the Clean Power Plan, nor does it preclude a state from moving forward and implementing EPA’s rule. It simply allows states to prevent the proposed rule from imposing unnecessary economic hardship,” said Whitfield in an April 29 statement. His home state of Kentucky relies both the production of coal, and coal-fired power.

“The courts ought to have their say on the legality of the so-called Clean Power Plan before states implement and those who pay an electric bill are required to spend a significant amount of money. I am convinced, based on the law and prior court opinions, that EPA does not have authority to enact its Clean Power Plan under 111(d). Committee passage of the Ratepayer Protection Act is an important step toward safeguarding ratepayers as the court cases proceed,” said Griffith.

“As our fragile economic recovery keeps sputtering along, the last thing families and job creating businesses need is higher electric bills. The Ratepayer Protection Act provides reasonable safeguards against the risks to ratepayers of EPA’s Clean Power Plan,” added House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

The committee has held five hearings on the 111(d) rule since it was initially proposed, which have identified what the committee’s GOP majority calls the fundamental legal flaws of the plan, the many implementation challenges, the pressing reliability concerns, and the significant economic harm to ratepayers. At a hearing on the Ratepayer Protection Act, energy economist Eugene Trisko, representing the United Mine Workers of America union, testified on a study estimating that electricity rates under the Clean Power Plan would increase by an average of 15% in a majority of states.

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.