Full House passes bill that would knee-cap EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 approved H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, by a vote of 247-180.

The Ratepayer Protection Act, which if enacted would severely cripple the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in imposing its Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, was introduced by House 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.

The Clean Power Plan, which is to be issued in final form late this summer, would require 30% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 at existing power plants. EPA has a separate plan for new power plants.

Based on a rarely invoked provision of the Clean Air Act, section 111(d), the EPA is seeking to set mandatory CO2 “goals” for each state’s electricity system under trhe Clean Power Plan, said a June 24 statement from the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s GOP majority. The EPA seeks to fundamentally change how electricity is generated, distributed, and consumed in the United States. States would be required to submit complex plans to EPA in 2016, and begin meeting interim goals in 2020, with a final goal of 2030. There are significant economic costs associated with the pending rule and some estimate that the costs could range from $366 billion to $479 billion over the period of 2017-2031, the GOP statement said.

The Ratepayer Protection Act would allow for the completion of judicial review of any final rule before requiring states to comply, and states could not be forced to implement a state or federal plan if its governor finds a significant adverse effect on rates or reliability. 

Whitfield said in the June 24 statement: “EPA’s power grab is a bad deal for the American economy, businesses, and ratepayers. The president’s own EPA estimates that its proposed rule would cost tens of billions of dollars and would be unworkable for many states. At a time when our economy is still recovering, regulations that will raise the price of energy, especially on the most vulnerable in this country, will be devastating. My legislation is simply a safeguard to protect ratepayers and electric reliability across the country and I’m honored that it passed the House today.”   

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., added: “Folks in Michigan could face a 12 percent increase in electricity prices under the EPA’s proposal and the costs of this proposed rule would fall disproportionally on the most vulnerable. The Ratepayer Protection Act is a thoughtful and straightforward answer to the potential rate shocks that could occur because of the EPA’s proposed rule. Regulatory overreach has defined this administration and it’s time we stood up to protect affordable energy.”

Obviously, the path for any bill like this eventually leads to the White House, where a veto is certain. Then it comes down to whether there are enough congressional votes to override the veto. Also, this is not the only Clean Power Plan-crippling measure floating around Congress and it is too soon to say which of them will emerge as the front-runner.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced June 18 that he secured language in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill that would protect states from any consequences from EPA should they forego submitting a state plan for complying with the Clean Power Plan. This prohibition of the use of funds was included in the Senate version of the bill that was approved by the Appropriations Committee earlier on June 18. The measure that McConnell inserted in the Interior funding bill solidifies in legislative text that states have the option to refuse to comply with the rule. The Interior Appropriations bill must now be approved by the full Senate. McConnell’s initiative would be trickier to veto, if his language even makes the final version of the bill, since President Obama would be vetoing the whole bill, not just the McConnell-authored part.

Also, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee’s Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a June 23 hearing on S. 1324, the Affordable Reliable Electricity Now Act (ARENA). Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced ARENA in May and has more than 30 cosponsors, including McConnell. Key provisions of the bill include: a requirement that 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 U.S.; extension of the rule’s compliance dates pending final judicial review; and a provision that no state can be required to implement a state or federal plan that its governor determines would negatively impact economic growth, the reliability of the electricity system or electricity ratepayers.

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.