Sierra Club: Senators would vote against Clean Power Plan at their own peril

The Sierra Club, looking to put pressure on key U.S. senators ahead of a vote on Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions that would halt implementation of both the Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and a companion plan for new power plants, said Nov. 13 that it has done polling in several states showing public support for these U.S. Environmental Protection Agency actions.

The new polls come on the eve of votes expected next week in the Senate on the CRA resolutions. The polling, which was conducted by Public Policy Polling in Missouri, Maine, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, and Iowa, also found that voters in these states trust scientists at the EPA over elected members of Congress to decide whether there should be limits on air and water pollution, the club said.

  • In Illinois, for example, 70% of those polled said they trusted the EPA over elected members of Congress, and an equal percentage favor the Clean Power Plan.  
  • In Missouri, 56% favored the Clean Power Plan and 64% trusted EPA scientists to make decisions regarding air and water pollution limits.
  • For Ohioans, 64% favored the Clean Power Plan and 65% trusted EPA scientists over elected members of Congress.

Across the board, there was a clear trend toward confidence in the EPA, the Clean Power Plan, and the need to combat climate disruption, the club said.

“This data clearly shows that majorities in these states support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan,” said Grace McRae, Sierra Club’s Polling and Research Director. “Voters across the partisan spectrum want the EPA to limit dangerous carbon pollution and are ready to support candidates who will act to make that happen.”

Respondents also expressed a clear preference for candidates who support the Clean Power Plan, the club said. In Virginia, for example, 57% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for Senate that supported the Clean Power Plan, which includes 35% who said they would be much more likely to vote for such a candidate. In Maine, 66% said they are likely to vote for a candidate that supported the Clean Power Plan, which also included 38% who said they would be much more likely to vote for the hypothetical candidate.

“Voters from these states have made it crystal clear that they want their Senators to support the Clean Power Plan, not coal interests on Capitol Hill,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Senators in these states have a choice: listen to their constituents back home and support the Clean Power Plan, along with all the public health and clean energy benefits it provides, or side with deep-pocketed polluters in Washington who are attacking it.”

The Clean Power Plan, published in final form on Oct. 23, has triggered a series of lawsuits against it in federal court. Also subject to court appeals is the final plan for new power plants, which calls for expensive carbon capture and storage equipment on all new coal plants. The Clean Power Plan requires 32% greenhouse gas reductions from existing power plants by 2030.

The CRA resolutions are likely to get support from almost all Republicans, who hold a majority in the Senate, with a handful of coal-state Democrats likely to vote for them, as well.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Oct. 27 that he and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have introduced a resolution of disapproval under the CRA designed to stop the new plant rule. McConnell also joined Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in filing a separate CRA that relates to the regulation affecting existing plants. A CRA provides Congress the ability to eliminate onerous regulations imposed by the executive branch through an expedited procedure for consideration in the Senate. 

Said McConnell about the CRAs in Oct. 27 remarks on the Senate floor: “Together, these measures represent a comprehensive solution. Colleagues will join me to speak about these resolutions later today. I’m sure they’ll say more about the measures we’ve filed and the process associated with them. What everyone should know is this. The publication of these regulations does not represent an end, but a beginning. It’s the beginning of a new front to defend hardworking Middle Class Americans from massive regulations that target them. That front is opening here in Congress, and it’s opening across the country as states file lawsuits and Governors stand up for their own Middle Class constituents.”

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.