Group of mostly Republican senators introduces Clean Power Plan-crippling bill

Coal-state Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, on May 13 joined with a group of other senators to introduce a bill to halt the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 30% by 2030.

A bipartisan group of six senators joined Capito at a May 13 press conference to unveil The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act (ARENA). EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan last year and it is due to be issued in final form this summer.

“President Obama’s misguided ‘Clean Power Plan’ threatens to drastically reduce coal-related jobs, increase energy prices and reduce reliability. After carefully considering the economic and legal implications of this unprecedented proposal, the need for action is clear,” said Capito, who hails from West Virginia, which is the number two state in the U.S. for coal production. “The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act enables us to fight back against the assault on coal, and the broader threat to affordable, reliable energy nationwide. I am proud to lead the charge against the ‘Clean Power Plan’s’ sweeping regulations and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to move this very important legislation forward.”

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Prevents mandates for unproven technology – Before EPA can set a technology-based standard for new power plants, the standard must first be achieved for at least one year at several separate power facilities throughout the country. The bill also prevents the EPA from using any demonstration projects –which are projects that are reliant on federal support – from being used to set the standard. That means the projects must be commercial and not supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. Industry officials say that commercial CO2 capture and sequestration projects are at least 10 years off.
  • Extends compliance dates – The bill would extend the rule’s compliance dates pending final judicial review, including the dates for submission of state plans.
  • Holds EPA accountable – This bill would require EPA to issue state-specific model plans demonstrating how each state could meet the required GHG emissions reductions under the rule.
  • Enables states to protect ratepayers – The bill would provide that no state shall be required to implement a state or federal plan that the state’s governor determines would negatively impact economic growth, negatively impact the reliability of the electricity system or negatively impact electricity ratepayers.
  • Protects highway fund dollars – The bill would prevent the EPA from withholding highway funds from any states for noncompliance with the Clean Power Plan.

The ARENA Act, which takes into account EPA’s proposed regulations for both new and existing power plants, also requires EPA to submit to Congress a report describing the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions the Clean Power Plan is expected to reduce, and to conduct modeling to show the impacts of the rule on the climate indicators used to develop the rule.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Rand Paul, R-Ky., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, John Boozman, R-Ark., David Perdue, R-Ga., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Tom Tillis, R-N.C., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Bill Cassidy, R-La. Notable is that the word “bipartisan” used to describe this group is a bit of a stretch, since Manchin, who used to be in the West Virginia coal industry, is the only Democrat on that list.

“I applaud Sen. Capito for introducing legislation that would allow states to better protect middle class families from the ramifications of the Obama Administration’s regressive, and likely illegal, energy regulations,” said McConnell, who recently took the controversial position of advising state governors to ignore the Clean Power Plan, if it becomes final, and make EPA force them to comply with it.

“Sen. Capito’s measure, which I proudly co-sponsored, demonstrates what I presented during the Budget Resolution, that the Administration cannot withhold highway funds from states that do not comply with its regressive energy regulations that would hit middle and working-class families especially hard. This bill, which further highlights a ‘way out’ for states from these massive new regulations that seem more motivated by ideology than science — regulations that could negatively impact their economy and hurt both the cost and reliability of energy for their citizens —effectively reiterates the message I relayed in a letter to our nation’s governors in March,” McConnell added.

Various senators say the Clean Power Plan will kill jobs and hurt grid reliability

Here is a sample of statements from the bill sponsors:

  • “The president’s backdoor energy tax will threaten grid reliability and stick ratepayers with the bill,” said Thune. “We need affordable and reliable energy to power American industries to build a stronger economy and create jobs, not federal overreach. The ARENA Act takes an important step in holding the Obama EPA’s aggressive agenda in check and will protect states from this onerous regulation.”
  • “The EPA’s carbon emissions rule jeopardizes the reliability and affordability of the electricity that millions of Americans use to power their lives every day,” said Manchin. “The agency’s regulations will threaten the stability of our electric grid, low electricity prices, countless jobs in the energy, production and manufacturing sectors, and the American economy. That is simply unacceptable. The EPA cannot place unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards that will undoubtedly strangle energy production. This legislation will ensure that the EPA’s regulations are based on demonstrated technology that is commercially available across the United States, which strikes the proper balance between our environment and our economy.”
  • “The Obama climate plan is all pain and no gain. It raises costs and destroys jobs, but it doesn’t truly impact the global climate. That’s according to the EPA’s own estimates. This bipartisan bill will protect families from higher energy bills, prevent electricity blackouts and ensure that possible EPA mandates are based on a realistic review of the available technology. It will also protect states that exercise their ability under the law to say ‘no’ when the EPA pressures them to impose state-level mandates,” said Boozman. 
  • “The EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rules would have a direct and devastating impact in Arkansas and across the country. This bill pushes back against these new standards and it provides states with the flexibility to opt out of these standards if their rates are projected to increase under them. It also rightly requires the EPA to recognize the important differences between our many energy sources, ensuring Arkansas’s lignite coal and our coal-fired power plants aren’t unfairly penalized. I will continue to work with my colleagues to fight back against President Obama’s EPA and to ensure Arkansans continue to have access to affordable, low-cost energy sources,” said Cotton.
  • “As proposed, EPA’s Clean Power Plan would result in higher electricity rates, fewer jobs and uncertainty surrounding the reliability of the electric grid – with little environmental benefit. It threatens the livelihood of South Dakota’s only coal-fired plant at Big Stone, which is already in the middle of a $400 million compliance upgrade. Our legislation would give states much-needed flexibility and additional time to comply with this proposal and protect taxpayers from paying the burden through higher electric bills,” said Rounds.
  • “The EPA’s coal killing regulations will take more money out of every family’s pocketbook in the form of higher energy prices and cost many Americans their job,” said Enzi. “We should be working with our energy producers to create more abundant and affordable energy, not trying to put them out of business.” 
  • “As a 100 percent public power state, Nebraska will be disproportionately impacted by President Obama’s overregulation of our electricity system. Families and businesses will be forced to pay for costly plant upgrades, higher electricity bills, and more expensive goods and services,” said Fischer.
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.