Inciting a Democratic walkout, Senate panel passes Clean Power Plan-killing bill

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R–Okla., chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, said Aug. 5 that his committee approved several bills that day, including one that would bring the Obama Administration’s newly-final Clean Power Plan to a screeching halt.

The bill is S. 1324, the Affordable Reliable Electricity Now Act of 2015 (ARENA Act). The ARENA Act strikes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations for new, modified, reconstructed and existing power plants. The bill prevents the agency from mandating technology that does not yet exist for new sources and requires EPA to take into account and submit a report to Congress detailing the impact any future regulations issued pursuant to section 111 of the Clean Air Act will have on the climate as well as domestic and global emissions. That is the section EPA is using to justrify the Clean Power Plan, which was released in final form on Aug. 3.

This “bipartisan” bill, introduced by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito. R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with 35 current cosponsors, also delays states from having to spend resources complying with any rule until after legal questions are settled and allows governors of a state to opt-out of a rule if it is found to have adverse impacts on their local economies, energy systems and ratepayers, said Inhofe. Notable is that “bipartisan” is a bit of a stretch, since it is unlikely there are many other Democrats who openly oppose EPA’s efforts. Manchin is from the nation’s second-large coal-producing state and was once in the coal business himself.  

“The Democrats’ decision to walk out on the EPW Committee markup was a complete surprise, but it also affirms that liberal Democrats are not committed to addressing the flaws in the president’s carbon mandates,” said Inhofe. “Despite maintaining my tradition as Chairman to not restrict time on amendment consideration or comments on legislation, Democrats refused to allow the committee to operate in regular order in voting on the bipartisan ARENA Act, as well as six other pieces of legislation and four GSA resolutions. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s ARENA Act has 35 cosponsors, and for two hours we considered Democrat amendments to the bill. Once it came time for the vote, Ranking Member Barbara Boxer completed the Democrats’ walkout by voicing for the first time her desire for S.1500, an unrelated bill to the current debate, to be pulled from the committee markup.”

Inhofe added: “The ARENA Act is a common-sense, bipartisan piece of legislation that would send the Obama administration’s carbon mandates back to the drawing board where it should be reconsidered with publicly available science and adequate public input. EPW Republicans proceeded to pass the ARENA Act at a 2PM business meeting which will now make it available to the Majority Leader for proper consideration and debate on the Senate floor this fall.”

Notable is that the Senate Majority Leader is Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who also hails from a coal-producing state and has been a loud voice against the Clean Power Plan, going as far as to urge governors to defy it.

Boxer, D-Calif., said in an opening statement at the hearing about the ARENA bill: “The bill creates giant loopholes making it nearly impossible to take any meaningful action to address climate change and reduce harmful carbon pollution. We know if we turn away from the President’s Clean Power Plan that we not only move toward the most devastating impacts of climate change, but we hurt the health of the American people. Why would we want to do something that would mean up to 90,000 more asthma attacks, 1,700 more heart attacks, 3,600 more premature deaths, and 300,000 more missed days at school and work? We have letters in opposition to this bill from dozens of public health, business, environmental, and religious groups. I ask unanimous consent for these letters to be entered into the record.”

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.